Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams skipped Tuesday night’s debate, but that didn’t stop the other candidates from taking shots at the incumbent.
In his first re-election attempt as mayor, Dennis Williams is obviously the main target for the six men vying to replace him.
It was no surprise that Williams’ management of Wilmington over the past four years was a common refrain from those six challengers who attended the WHYY/News Journal sponsored debate Tuesday night at the Grand Opera House in downtown Wilmington.
Williams decided not to attend, saying he had to prepare for his March 31 budget presentation to the WIlmington City Council.
Former City Councilman Kevin Kelley seemed to be the most critical of the Williams administration.
“In 2012, Mayor Williams promised to turn the city around. We all know that promise was broken,” Kelley said. “When you have a lack of vision, accountability and direction, you get labeled ‘Murdertown, USA.'” Kelley said the city needs a mayor who will listen, criticizing Williams for rejecting the policing plan recommended by the Wilmington Public Safety Strategies Commission put together by Delaware Governor Jack Markell.
For City Council President Theo Gregory running the city takes one thing: “It comes down to leadership, leadership, leadership.”
Candidate Eugene Young agreed with Gregory: “Too often within the city of Wilmington there is no leadership in going out and letting people know what we’re about and what’s going on in our city.”
Mike Purzycki pointed to Wilmington’s ranking on the list of top-20 most dangerous cities as evidence that Williams hasn’t done enough to fight crime. “When the mayor says we can’t afford overtime [for police officers], my argument is we can’t afford not to pay overtime if it is in fact going to reduce crime.” Purzycki said if he’s elected, two more police officers will be on the streets because he’d reassign the two officers currently working as security detail for the mayor.
Even though Williams didn’t attend Tuesday’s debate, he still tried to make his voice heard. He posted links on social media to a video in which he talked about the challenges Wilmington faces and how he’s dealt with those issues. Specifically the Violence Reduction Network, of which Wilmington is a part, as evidence of how he’s brought in federal partners to fight crime.
“I worked very closely with Senator Coons and brought that to the city of Wilmington, which now, the city of Wilmington is going to be model city.” Wilmington’s VRN partnership was recently highlighted by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch as a “success story” during a recent Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.
The next debate will be held at Howard High School on April 21. Tuesday night’s debate will be broadcast on WHYY-TV on Sunday, April 3 at 1:30 p.m. It’s not clear whether Mayor Williams will be in attendance at the April 21st event.