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NEW YORK — Early voting for the New York City primary election begins Saturday, and the race for City Hall continues to get more competitive.

Democratic mayoral candidate Shaun Donovan spoke with the PIX11 Morning News on Tuesday about some of the issues New Yorkers are most concerned about, and how they are all connected.

Donovan contended he has the “best experience” of any candidate on issues such as housing, homelessness, mental illness and its relation to crime.

Watch More: PIX11’s Democratic Mayoral Forum

Crime and guns in New York

When asked about a rise in crime, and specifically gun violence, Donovan said his approach would be to try to stop or slow the flow of guns into the city.

“We’re not making guns here in New York City…they’re coming from rogue dealers out of state. So, we need an immediate focus on gang violence, those who are running guns in the city,” Donovan said.

The mayoral hopeful said he would do this by building better relationships with national law enforcement agencies and other leaders in the region.

“I don’t think this mayor has been able to build those partnerships effectively,” Donovan said of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Policing and police reform

Donovan, who has said he would look for a new commissioner of the NYPD if elected, said he feels it’s time for a person of color to lead the force.

“I absolutely believe that this is a moment for a police commissioner of color, and I do think we should be looking broadly,” he said.

Donovan said he doesn’t think New York is a city that has to choose between police reform and fighting violent crime, and that both could happen simultaneously.

New York mental health epidemic

When asked if he would keep Thrive, the controversial mental health initiative started by New York City’s first lady Chirlane McCray, Donovan said the program did not do enough to address the seriously mentally ill.

“Those are the folks that we’ve seen dramatically increase on our streets and in shelters,” Donovan said.

He proposed a plan consisting of two solutions, including supportive housing and preventing homelessness in the first place.

“Anytime someone leaves Rikers or the mental health wing of one of our hospitals, directed immediately to supportive housing, rather than ending up on the streets,” Donovan said.

He described supportive housing as permanent housing with on-site services that breaks the cycle.

“Instead, what the mayor has been investing in is emergency shelters and hotels, that are like putting a giant Band-Aid on this rather than solving it,” Donovan said.

Evictions and rent support

During PIX11’s Mayoral Forum, Donovan spoke of a plan to possibly provide checks to New Yorkers facing evictions in the face of financial hardships.

“The federal government has now provided billions of dollars in aid. What we need now is a mayor who really understands how to get that to people quickly,” he said.

Donovan said the plan would provide rent assistance for up to a year for potential families.

Vaccine mandate for schools?

Donovan said in our PIX11 Mayoral Forum that he would mandate COVID-19 vaccinations in city schools if elected.

“This is something that already happens with our children. We already mandate vaccines for other types of – My own children have had those mandates for years,” Donovan said.

For families who do not want to get their children vaccinated, he said it is important the city works with those families and tries to gain their trust.

“But, we can’t have families that are endangering and risking that we have another explosion of the pandemic, like we did a year ago,” Donovan said.