NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY - The New Bern mayoral election is heating up. After Tuesday's election results, the race for mayor is down to just two candidates, Sabrina Bengel and Dana Outlaw. The next election is less than a month away, and both candidates are now challenging each other to a debate.
"This is the people's election. It's about the next four years of leadership in New Bern," Outlaw said.
"We need a mayor, I keep saying, that is engaged and committed to the issues and has a record of following through on those issues," Bengel said.
On Thursday, Bengel challenged her opponent Outlaw to a debate before the November 5th election. Outlaw accepted that challenge and in return proposed nine different debates to take place all over New Bern.
"I'm offering a series of debates around town so we can give residents in all areas the time and opportunity to sit down and ask us the questions that (are) germane to their particular neighborhoods and concerns," he said.
Outlaw said he believes nine is a good number to reach all areas of New Bern. Bengel said she accepts that challenge, and talking to the people is something she already does each day.
"I'm out there talking with citizens all the time, neighborhood groups, and I'll continue to do that -- but as far as nine debates, I believe that's overkill. If you want to know the truth, I'm happy to go anywhere, any time and talk about the issues," Bengel said.
Outlaw said now that there is a runoff he is ready to focus on what the people want to hear.
"Instead of spending volumes of money on what's going to happen in the next 30 days it would be much better to sit down with residents," he said.
Bengel said she agrees, and that, in the end it's all about what the people want. She said she has the record to prove it.
"Let's talk about the issues our citizens have on an everyday basis. I want to talk about the things that face us as a future and growth of this city," she said.
Former mayoral candidate Denny Bucher has told NewsChannel 12 that he is endorsing Bengel for mayor, while former candidate Edwin Vargas said he supports Outlaw. Candidates Barbara Lee and Tharesa Lee said they are both not ready to make an endorsement.
The first runoff debate will be held by the Chamber of Commerce at Craven Community College on October 29th. A time for the debate has not yet been set.