| Credit: Ruta Smith file photo

A Thursday night forum for the Charleston City Council candidates vying for three contested seats gave hopefuls a chance to plea their cases and give their thoughts on hot-button issues in the Lowcountry.

Incumbent Robert Mitchell is up for reelection against Tim Weber for District 4, encompassing the peninsula’s east side. Harry Griffin is facing challenger Stephen Bowden for West Ashley’s District 10. And in District 12, incumbent Carol Jackson is challenged by Caroline Parker on James Island.

Parker was unable to attend the Oct. 7 forum, leaving Mitchell, Weber, Griffin and Bowden to get into it, with a one-on-one conversation with Jackson held after the main event.

Though the big three challenges facing Charleston remain the same from years prior — transportation, flooding and affordable housing — a new debate over the Equity, Inclusion and Racial Reconciliation report sparked more heated words.

“I understand that Mr. Bowden is a public defender, so I don’t know how many murders or rapist or drug addicts or drug pushers he’s helped get off,” Griffin said regarding police funding. “I will never support ‘defund the police.’ I will never support reparations. What I will do in the private world is, I will give anybody a job that wants a job.”

Bowden rebutted, saying he does not support defunding the police or direct payment reparations, but he does support the city report as a whole.

“If you think all my job is is to get people off, it just shows how completely unqualified you are to manage this city going into the future,” Bowden said. “I am extremely disappointed in city council for not choosing themselves to advance these recommendations.”

City Council voted against formal support of the report twice.

The debate between the District 4 candidates centered around affordable housing challenges plaguing the east side and addressing crime downtown.

Mitchell said while his priorities remained affordable housing, the main challenges were stemming from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). When the HUD changes its metrics for affordable housing, many in Charleston are left out of the running, he explained.

Weber however steered the conversation toward crime. He said the city is on track to hit record homicide rates, and his priorities are more focused on stemming that number.

Early voting for the Nov. 2 election is already underway.