Mayoral debate grades - Eric Frazier

The Observer’s editorial board watched and listened to Wednesday’s mayoral runoff debate between Democratic candidates Dan Clodfelter and Jennifer Roberts.

How’d the candidates do? Here’s associate editor Eric Frazier’s recap:

Grades from associate editor Peter St. Onge

Grades from editorial page editor Taylor Batten

Frazier’s grades: Dan Clodfelter; B; Jennifer Roberts: C

When GOP mayoral candidate Edwin Peacock’s primary opponent sent out a bare-knuckled campaign mailer attacking his record, Peacock met him at the next debate bristling with indignation.

Peacock not only defended himself, but attacked businessman Scott Stone and his record with barely-concealed anger. It drew approving nods from observers who perhaps took his TV-ready smile and dad-next-door charm to mean he was a lightweight pushover.

I came to today’s debate thinking Democratic front-runner Jennifer Roberts would do much the same to incumbent Dan Clodfelter. After all, her campaign had just accused him of lying about her record on education in a hard-edged campaign mailer.

But when presented a chance to face the man accused of lying about some of her proudest accomplishments as a politician, Roberts gently chided Clodfelter for making “inaccurate statements” about her record. When Clodfelter doubled down, insisting that all of his data concerning her record were cross-checked, she defended herself, but launched no counter-attack.

Later, he took a jab at her on economic development, suggesting the county commission under her leadership had no significant role in economic development. She took issue – gently.

If her game plan was to get through it without ever engaging him in a clear contrast on style or substance, she succeeded. Perhaps, given her frontrunner status, that’s the correct political play.

But given the fact that Clodfelter is far better versed on issues facing the city – not surprising given his time in the mayor’s office and the legislature – it felt like she needed to confront him more directly to avoid looking like the weaker of the two candidates.

She didn’t do that. And the contrast between them was pretty stark.