Tito Jackson jabs at Marty Walsh in first debate

Friday, 13 October 2017, 06:44:52 PM. A fired-up Tito Jackson used a long-awaited debate to hammer Mayor Martin J. Walsh on city issues last night, slamming the mayor’s record on the city councilor’s home turf of Roxbury in the hopes of reinvigorating his campaign.Walsh, in contrast, rarely criticized Jackson and stuck to his own first-term record over the past three and a half years — occasionally drawing jeers and shouts from a

A fired-up Tito Jackson used a long-awaited debate to hammer Mayor Martin J. Walsh on city issues last night, slamming the mayor’s record on the city councilor’s home turf of Roxbury in the hopes of reinvigorating his campaign.

Walsh, in contrast, rarely criticized Jackson and stuck to his own first-term record over the past three and a half years — occasionally drawing jeers and shouts from a crowd that, while including supporters from both sides, seemed more willing to criticize the incumbent.

The hourlong debate before several hundred people at a packed Hibernian Hall saw Jackson and Walsh answering multiple questions on public safety, education, economic development and race. Jackson and Walsh have clashed on the number of debates the candidates will have, with Jackson calling for four and Walsh agreeing to two.

Last night’s first debate was sponsored by civic organization RoxVote and broadcast on Boston Neighborhood News.

The opening statements set the tone, with Walsh greeting Jackson’s mother and saying Boston was about “hopes and dreams” and Jackson immediately describing Walsh as making “promises he did not keep.”

Audience members frequently injected their opinions. Moderator and Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker’s question on whether Boston’s reputation of racism was deserved was met with a resounding “Yes!” from many in the crowd. Numerous Walsh answers were met with scornful mutterings and cries, particularly his claim that a large Roxbury development would bring wealth to the community.

Both candidates drew cheers from their supporters in the audience, but while those cheering for Walsh generally applauded his proposals like building more affordable housing in all neighborhoods, Jackson’s biggest responses came when he was criticizing the mayor, including accusing him of “punting” on racism at Boston Latin School.

Walsh described the response as “passionate” and said it didn’t bother him.

“You can’t be discouraged, I’m the mayor of Boston — you’re going to hear criticism and hear that a lot,” Walsh said. “I’m glad people were here tonight.”

After the debate, Jackson said his campaign had new momentum and he went on the attack because of the seriousness of the problems facing Boston.

“The things I’m speaking about aren’t options, they’re life-or-death situations for people dealing with them on a daily basis,” Jackson said. “I don’t have the privilege of parsing my words, these are urgent issues for urgent times. We need serious leadership.”

Walsh said he wasn’t surprised by Jackson’s harsh criticisms, but stressed he didn’t want to respond with negative campaigning.

“If you look at the strategy when I ran four years ago ... I didn’t get into the back and forth, I think that people are sick of that negative politics,” Walsh said. “We don’t need to stoop to Washington’s level of name-calling.”

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