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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The race to replace Pete Buttigieg as Mayor of South Bend took to the debate stage last night.

Mayor Buttigieg is not seeking re-election as he continues to pursue his aspirations for the White House in the 2020 Democrat primary for president.

Republican Sam Haas and Democrat James Mueller took questions from a moderator and the audience inside a lecture hall on te campus of Indiana University-South Bend Tuesday night.

The topic that dominated the discussion was the city’s police department. Both candidates agreeing and pushing each other on the belief that most people in the city of South Bend don’t trust the city’s police department in the aftermath of the shooting death of Eric Logan.

Where they differed was the reason why police are on the receiving end of so much distrust. Mueller, who has been endorsed by his fellow Democrat in Buttigieg, said it’s because of “systemic racism,” something his Republican counterpart in Haas denies.”

“You can’t address this issue without understanding the problem,” Mueller said directly to Haas. “Systemic racism is a large reason why our community doesn’t trust police. I don’t even know where you would begin. How could you start a conversation with the people when you’re not even acknowledging how they are feeling?”

“I don’t believe systemic racism is part of our policing,” Haas said. “Are they racist individuals? Yes, but I think the United States, by far, is one of the least racist countries.”

Haas also accused Mueller of trying to ride to much “on the coattails” of Mayor Buttigieg in how he plans to pursue his agenda for the city. 

Last night’s debate was the final debate between the two candidates for mayor before the election on November 5th.

(PHOTO: nerthuz/Thinkstock)