5 leading candidates pitch to voters during first SF mayoral debate

On Wednesday night during the first San Francisco mayoral debate leading up to the November election, the five leading candidates addressed some of the biggest concerns for the future of the city.

Incumbent SF Mayor London Breed debated four challengers: former San Francisco supervisor and mayor Mark Farrell, prominent philanthropist Daniel Luire, as well as President of the Board of Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Supervisor Asha Safai. 

The topics included homelessness, the drug crisis, the public school system and city hall corruption. The candidates made their pitches to voters in front of a sold-out audience of 1,700 at the Sydney Goldstein Theater just two blocks from city hall.

The debate was moderated by Manny Yekutiel and Heather Knight, New York Times San Francisco bureau chief. The first topic of the debate was how to deal with downtown vacancies.

"We have the historic opportunity to purchase buildings and turn them into universities," said Safai.  

"We have to invest in things that make a neighborhood great, like libraries, small businesses and parks, things that downtown never had," said Peskin.  

"Converting some of those buildings into housing. Making downtown not just retail, but all kinds of businesses and bringing more block parties, entertainment and excitement downtown," said Breed.  

The moderators asked the candidates how they would handle the homeless and fentanyl crisis. 

"As mayor, I will declare a fentanyl state of emergency. It will allow us to ask state and federal governments for additional funds," said Farrell.  

The candidates gave their positions on how they would improve public safety.

"I would expand the community policing we have in District 3 to the rest of San Francisco," said Peskin. 

"Public safety isn't just about police. It's about alternatives to police. It's having ambassadors and other resources, responses to calls for service in the city," said Breed.  

"What's been missing is the leadership and investment to recruit. If you don't invest in the recruitment budget, you can't go out and get officers," said Safai. 

"You have to send a message to this country and to the world that you do not come to San Francisco to deal drugs, to deal drugs or to sleep on our streets," said Lurie.    

At one point, Lurie called out Farrell, saying that when Farrell was a supervisor and budget director, he gave less funding to the police department than then-mayor Ed Lee had requested. 

"A mayor has to stand by and support our public safety and our first responders," said Lurie.

Farrell responded, "Daniel, this is where your inexperience shows.  You have not been a part of the budget committee in city hall. You have not been mayor of San Francisco. There are competing priorities every single day."

Before the debate started, groups of supporters gathered in front of the theater to support their candidate. Voters won't have to wait long for the next debate.  It's scheduled for June 17 at UC Law. 

Check out the full SF Mayoral Debate available on KTVU Fox 2 YouTube page

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at Amber.Lee@Fox.com or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU, Instagram @AmberKTVU or Twitter @AmberKTVU.