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Mayoral debate that would focus on diversity is planned

Boston’s mayoral candidates, after some prodding by civil rights and community organizations, have agreed to a fourth debate that focuses on issues affecting communities of color.

City Councilor John R. Connolly and state Representative Martin J. Walsh previously had said they would like to hold just three debates, preferably televised, in October.

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But community advocates said that in a city where blacks, Latinos, and Asians now account for a bigger share of the population than whites, issues impacting communities of color – public safety, education, economic development, and diversity -- must be front-and-center.

A coalition of more than a dozen groups pushed for the fourth debate, including the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, Boston Branch of the NAACP, the Black Political Task Force, Commonwealth Compact at the University of Massachusetts Boston, MassVote, black clergy, and minority law enforcement officers.

The group said the extra debate will help ensure that the candidates explain how their administration would reflect the city’s diversity. It also will ensure that such issues as equitable city services, disproportionate levels of neighborhood crime, and a persistent achievement and opportunity gap are parsed as thoroughly as they need to be, members said.

“I don’t think [candidates] should get a pass on their issues of diversity,” said Darnell Williams, head of the Urban League.

The candidates welcomed the opportunity to talk about their plans for the so-called “New Boston” during a 90-minute debate tentatively scheduled for the third week in October.

Both campaigns have spoken and are hashing out the details about the specific date and time, said Joyce Linehan, a spokeswoman for Walsh, who called the issues “critically important.”

Connolly spokeswoman Natasha Perez said, “We’re happy to work with the Walsh campaign and the coalition of groups, spearheaded by the Urban League to help make this event happen.”

Akilah Johnson can be reached at akilah.johnson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @akjohnson1922.
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