Charleston mayoral debate pits Akers and Goodwin against each other

    Republican J.B. Akers and Democrat Amy Shuler Goodwin take on a wide range of topics Wednesday night in a Charleston mayoral debate. (WCHS/WVAH)

    A debate between Republican JB Akers and Democrat Amy Goodwin in the race for Charleston mayor Tuesday got very contentious quickly over the now discarded Kanawha-Charleston Health Department needle exchange program and potential safe injection sites.

    Goodwin interrupted Akers while he tried to read an op-ed written by Goodwin where she appeared to support both programs, but, during the debate, she said she would only be open to talk about how both harm reduction programs could benefit the community.

    "You have to get the whole truth," Goodwin said, "not just small little bits of what you want to make for it to work for your political agenda."

    Akers said he wouldn't even have the conversation, and is dead set against both programs that he said would attract, and has attracted, criminal vagrants.

    "I have respect for our local population first and foremost," Akers said.

    Akers painted himself as the public safety candidate, wanting to move the Transit Mall and health department away from Charleston's economic center and aggressively pursue demolition of dilapidated properties.

    "I say this repeatedly," he said, "economic development, getting people to live downtown, we need more downtown residents, it all begins with public safety."

    Goodwin pushed an image of understanding and respecting all walks of life then bringing groups together to solve complex problems such as vagrancy, crime, and dilapidated housing even proposing a central hub for addiction care and information sharing between recovery programs.

    "The mayor's care office," she said, "coordinated addiction recovery unit."

    Neither candidate would talk specifics on how much tax you should pay.

    Akers called the user fee a necessary evil for public safety, and Goodwin agreed.

    She, however, called for a forensic audit to analyze how the city is spending tax dollars.

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