Harrisburg mayoral candidates debate a week before primary election

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - With a week to go before the primary election, the five candidates for mayor took the stage Tuesday in a debate, discussing the major issues facing the city.

A big area of focus during the debate was on economic issues and what the candidates would do to help the city become more economically viable.

"We need a serious economic development plan that will address blight," Gloria Martin-Roberts, a candidate who is a former City Council president, said.

The candidates discussed tax policies that would help local businesses but would also weigh that against making things more affordable for the city's residents.

"We want to restore the confidence, the consumer confidence within the city," Jennie Jenkins, a candidate who was a former Harrisburg police officer, said. "People can't afford to live in our city."

The candidates also addressed public safety, and talked about what they would do in conjunction with the police department to fight crime.

"We are at a crossroads," Anthony Harrell, a candidate who is a military veteran, said. "Our city is slipping away and we must fight to get it back. Our neighborhoods are slipping away."

Other candidates took the time to promote their larger-scale plans to revitalize the city.

"I've constructed a plan that brings us from here and takes us into the future and secures our education system," Lewis Butts, a mayoral candidate who also ran for the office in 2013, said.

The challengers are looking to unseat incumbent Mayor Eric Papenfuse, who says the city should stay the course.

"We've had balanced budgets every year," Papenfuse, seeking a second term, said. "In fact, we've had a surplus for the last three years, and we've got millions of dollars that we can now put toward much neglected infrastructure and capital needs. We are turning the corner."

All five candidates are running as Democrats, which means that barring a successful write-in campaign in November, the winner of the primary next Tuesday will become mayor.