COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Election season is heating up and Thursday night WRBL News 3 hosted a televised mayoral debate at Columbus State University.

Columbus voters got a closer look at both candidates hoping to lead the city for next four years.

Incumbent Mayor Skip Henderson and Challenger John Anker took the stage and responded to questions which touched on topics including crime, city operations and funding, as well as economic development.

For the majority of the debate Anker and Henderson gave opposing answers and often rebutted the others answers and key points.

However, when asked about the 30 year contract that is set to expire on June 30th which has provided tens of millions of dollars to Columbus Regional/Piedmont Healthcare for indigent care they both seemed to agree on how they would handle it.

“Today things have changed I’m surprised we haven’t been talking about this for a year we’re only talking about this now two months ahead of a 30 year renewal of a contract I hope that when the mayor gets this and they come to an action they’re only going to sign a one year release so I can have more time to dig into it so that will start talking to the community about their property taxes and what the expectations are what we’re getting for the money how we’re going to manage the ambulance and the people that need the care,” said Anker.

“But we’re in the process right now of doing something very similar to what Mr. Anker mentioned and that is shorter contracts that were renewal and making sure it takes into account the broadening of our medical environment to include mercy med, to include valley healthcare to include all the hospitals given them an access the Bradley Center the Pastoral Institute because mental health has become such a keen issue,” said Henderson

The two candidates did go back and forth during the crime questions particularly about an internal memo that John Anker says Mayor Henderson’s team withheld which Henderson says is simply not true.

In the final moments of the debate Mayor Henderson says his experience, skills learned and relationships qualifies him for a second term and Anker says he is qualified because he understands the culture of service as a businessman and this will help him hold people accountable to give the citizens the service they need.

Early voting begins next Monday, May 2, 2022 and Election day is May 24, 2022.