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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Mark Crockett, left, and Ben McAdams, Salt Lake County mayoral candidates, talk during a break in their debate on "The Doug Wright Show" on KSL NewsRadio in Salt Lake City, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012.

SALT LAKE CITY — Sheriff Jim Winder's tirade last week against Mark Crockett followed the GOP candidate for Salt Lake County mayor to Monday's KSL NewsRadio debate.

Crockett and Democrat Ben McAdams were guests on "The Doug Wright Show" to debate top issues in the tightly contested race to succeed outgoing Mayor Peter Corroon.

Among the usual questions about transportation, air quality and property taxes was an inquiry about Crockett's media event last week at the county jail to discuss innovation and efficiency to save money in the criminal justice system.

Winder followed the Thursday event with a fiery impromptu news conference of his own a few hours later, denouncing ideas presented at Crockett's event as "misleading and dangerous."

Representatives from the RealVictory phone coach program were on hand at Crockett's event to talk about their model for preventing repeat offenses by those convicted of misdemeanors. RealVictory claims to have achieved a 54 percent reduction in recidivism, according to a BYU study.

In the debate, Crockett again asserted he's not sure why Winder is upset. The plan, he said, is to determine what new approaches can be taken with the already successful system.

"There are so many people who have so many things to offer with modern-day learning and technology," he said. "If we can do a better job of matching individuals with what is most likely to help them not come back to jail later, then that's good."

McAdams called Crockett's jail services news conference a "bizarre" moment in the race and echoed Winder's criticism of the RealVictory program. The Democrat said he doesn't believe the county should attempt to cut costs in law enforcement at the expense of public safety.

Crockett again said that he wasn't proposing the adoption of the RealVictory program but was presenting it as an available option for integrating technology into the criminal justice system.

The Republican expanded his stance on education in Monday's debate, which he had previously asserted is a state responsibility rather than a county issue.

Crockett repeated his earlier argument that the county can aid education by reining in spending in other areas to reduce competition for tax dollars, and he also echoed McAdams' position about the importance of preschool and after-school programs.

The Republican also proposed county recreation and community programs be tailored to help at-risk youths as a way to increase success in the classroom.

McAdams, who has long made education a cornerstone of his campaign, called it the No. 1 concern that has come up with voters in the election. He said Crockett had previously criticized his focus on education, but he was pleased to hear his opponent talk about the issue.

"That's something I have been talking about throughout this campaign," McAdams said. "The county spends less than $500,000 on all of our after-school programs. We leverage volunteer resources."

The candidates went back and forth on transportation, with McAdams promoting an increase in mass transit and championing popularity of FrontRunner and TRAX.

Crockett countered that roads and bus routes shouldn't be neglected in transportation concerns and advocated for focusing on the Mountain View Corridor for future transportation development.

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In the discussion on transportation, the candidates squabbled over whether trains from the Daybreak area are running full or empty.

On questions about canyons, McAdams argued to keep decisions local and again denounced SkiLink, which would build a gondola system between the Canyons and Solitude resorts. The gondola would run through U.S. Forest Service lands.

Crockett made no direct mention of SkiLink but said trading small areas of public land near ski resorts for more backcountry land could benefit the county. He also advocated protecting the Bonneville Shoreline Trail from encroaching development.

E-mail: mromero@deseretnews.com Twitter: @McKenzieRomero