MEMPHIS, TN (WMC / WTVA) - It's a political forum that almost didn't happen.
Tuesday night, Republican Shelby County Mayoral Candidate David Lenoir walked into the room at the National Civil Rights museum not long after the Democratic mayoral candidate Lee Harris arrived.
The moderator was Dr. Karanja Ajanaku, a well-known journalist and executive with the New Tri-State Defender.
"I didn't get up this morning with the idea I was going to be moderating a debate at 6 o'clock," Ajanaku said.
Journalist Wendi Thomas was scheduled to moderate the event, but Lenoir announced Monday he would not participate in the debate because Thomas was the moderator. That would have marked the second NAACP mayoral forum Lenoir skipped.
However, when Thomas agreed to step aside, Lenoir agreed to rejoin the forum. While Thomas was not the moderator, she was still at the forum.
Deidre Malone, President of the NAACP, said the organization determined the questions. Malone said the NAACP decided to compromise and go ahead with Lenoir and Harris.
"I think it's important for all of the NAACP members and the citizens who are interested in learning his position to hear what he has to say as well as Mr. Harris and we the NAACP and other partners and other partners also interested to hear what he has to say," Malone said.
Right off the bat, Lenoir addressed the elephant in the room.
"When I became aware of biased public statements after her selection as a moderator, I went to the NAACP and asked that they change the moderator," Lenoir said.
A full house listened to the candidates' answers to pre-planned questions ranging from education to crime to how to keep people from leaving Memphis and going to more diverse cities.
"It will be diverse because that is the way I have always organized my affairs," Harris said. "It will be no different is I go into the top job in this county."
Lenoir is currently the Shelby County Trustee.
"I have a diverse office that I work with in the trustee's office," Lenoir said. "I will continue to have a diverse office as your Shelby County Mayor."
At times Lenoir took a few shots at Harris, and in turn, Harris pointed out that he has actually enacted legislation, something Lenoir has not.
Both candidates agree education is vital to a thriving city and agreed it is necessary for reducing crime.
"We need a proven leader that has actually done it," Lenoir said. "I spent eight years as your county's banker. I have a track record in executive leadership."
"I think we need a county mayor that represents all of us," Harris said. "I think we need a county mayor that can answer the hard questions."
Harris and Lenoir have several other matches planned to get their message out to voters in August's general election.