Recap: Rochester Mayoral Candidate Debate

(ABC 6 News) – The August primary election is one month away but before you head to the polls, we are giving you an opportunity to get to know your candidates more. ABC 6 News is hosting a series of primary debates with the Post Bulletin and 125 Live this month in Rochester.

The first night of debates kicked off on Tuesday night when some community members heard from the four mayoral candidates: Incumbent Mayor Kim Norton, Dean Koutsoukos, Britt Noser and Brad Trahan. All of the candidates were asked questions on topics regarding budget challenges, public safety, affordable housing and the Rochester economy.

All four candidates agreed that public safety is important, if not the most important issue to them.

"I think that Rochester has adopted many bad ideas in recent times and that we can make a change. We can stop the ‘Minneapolization’ of Rochester and we can set a new course. But to do so, we will need new leadership," businessman Britt Noser said.

Noser said the city must focus on common ground issues like public safety.

"I think one thing is clear. There’s a consensus that Rochester is on the wrong track and it doesn’t have to be this way. I’m an optimist," he said.

Mayor Norton said her priority over the past three and a half years as mayor has been keeping the community safe.

"We have worked with our police department and built up the community policing, but post-George Floyd’s murder, we have had a job to do. We had to rebuild trust because there has been an assumption that what happens in Minneapolis or other communities is the same here in Rochester," she said.

The candidates also mainly agreed with one another on the policing shortage in Rochester.

"The issue isn’t ‘do we have enough money in the budget?’ The issue is ‘are there officers available?,’" Norton said.

Norton added not only is the police staffing shortage prevalent in Rochester, it’s statewide.

"Many cities have implemented programs where they tackle crime early in its stages when it’s cheaper. That’s the best way to deal with it," candidate Dean Koutsoukos said.

Koutsoukos said if elected mayor, he wants to work with the Rochester Police Department to tackle things before they get to the major level.

"I would do anything possible to maintain sufficient policing in our city and I would say we might even need a surge in policing given the continued rise in violent crime and drug crime in our community," Noser said about the policing shortage.

"I’m not going to be a democrat or republican. I’m not going to be hard right or hard left. I’m going to be the can-do and will-do candidate," candidate Brad Trahan said. "It’s not about red or blue, it’s about people. I will listen to you, I will learn from you and I will lead with you. Not extreme right or not extreme left. I’m there with the whole community."

You can watch the full debate here.