MEMPHIS, Tenn. — On Saturday, Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church hosted a Memphis Mayoral Forum where voters could learn more about select members in the crowded field contending to be the city’s next mayor.
It featured candidates J.W. Gibson, Michelle McKissack, Van Turner Jr. and Paul Young.
“This is a new Memphis and we want to see new things happen,” said voter Sylvester Tate, who said he liked what he heard from all four. “We don’t want to see things the way they have been or the way they were 20 years ago.”
A new Memphis will need a new mayor, and voters have 19 candidates to choose from in 2023.
“Just because you’ve been known and you’ve been in politics in the city for all your life, that is no reason to go out and vote for someone,” Tate said.
Gibson, McKissack, Turner Jr. and Young spoke to the crowd, outlining their platforms as well as their stances on major issues like crime, Memphis Light Gas and Water and community investments.
Janika White said it was one of the better debates she’s seen.
”We’re not always going to agree on particular solutions,” she said. “But you at least want to make sure that you’ve picked and you’ve vetted a candidate that aligns with your values.”
The candidates were chosen based on a specific list of qualifications. They had to have a public platform and strong stances on education, health and wellness, mentorship and economic development.
“We wanted to make sure they’re someone the people could see what [they’ve] done for the community and hold [them] accountable,” said event moderator Corey Strong.
Strong, a member of non-profit group "The 100 Black Men of Memphis," said he believes that if candidates don’t talk to voters while trying to become mayor, they probably won’t talk to them when they are mayor.
“When they have these debates like this, the people that don’t show up — I think that sends us a message that they think they’ve already won,” he said. “And we need to eliminate them right away.”
The event was organized by the Black Clergy Collaborative of Memphis, 100 Black Men of Memphis and the National Bar Association.
Strong said they reached out to six candidates and two declined, but said at least one of them had a prior engagement.