What to watch for in the final mayoral debate | WBEZ
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What to watch for in the final mayoral debate

Chicago is just a week away from a historic mayoral runoff election. It’s the first time there’s been an April election to determine who will take over City Hall’s fifth floor office.

Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel have been all over the city, rubbing elbows, kissing babies, and trying to score just a few more votes as they head into the April 7 runoff.

Tonight at 7 p.m., the two will face off for their final televised debate on WTTW. Here are a few things WBEZ suggests viewers watch for.

What to do about the city's budget troubles?

While some viewers may feel this topic has been beaten to death, there are still many questions surrounding what each candidate would do to fix the city’s dire financial situation.

Both candidates have outlined financial plans on the campaign trail and online (here’s a link to Emanuel’s and to Garcia’s) but both of them lean pretty heavily on Springfield. While it may be that Springfield has to help shoulder some of the city’s burden, or at least help out legislatively—whether on pensions, or expanding the sales tax (which both Garcia and Emanuel have supported), many voters want to hear more about what each candidate can do about finances.

Who's bringing the heat?

During the first debate, Mayor Emanuel was on the offensive. Both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times editorial pages hit Commissioner Garcia hard for not offering up enough specifics. But then in the second debate, Garcia seemed to gain more confidence and was much more heated. A Sun-Times headline even characterized Emanuel as “on his heels” in that debate. Tonight, viewers are likely to see both candidates on the offensive, as it’s the last chance voters can see them go head-to-head before casting their ballots. 

New (and old) attacks

Speaking of attacks, there are a few themes that both Emanuel and Garcia have been sticking with for the majority of the campaign. Emanuel is constantly characterizing Garcia as ill-prepared for the position, and argues that he has not been specific enough on how he’d fix the city’s finances. Emanuel's campaign has underscored that point in both stunt press conferences and television ads.

Meanwhile, Garcia has painted Chicago as a “tale of two cities” under Emanuel. Garcia has hit Emanuel for not paying enough attention to the neighborhoods or the city’s working class residents, and paying too much attention to wealthy interests. They’re likely to stick to those points tonight, but watch for any deviation from these themes or any additional new fuel to the fire.

Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ political reporter. Follow her @laurenchooljian

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