Urban issues took center stage at a gubernatorial debate in New Haven tonight, as candidates played to a hometown audience.

Six Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls—Ned Lamont (at left in photo below), Dan Malloy (at right in photo below), Juan Figueroa, Mary Glassman, Rudy Marconi, and Mike Jarjura—participated in the debate at Wilbur Cross High School. New Haven’s Democratic Town Committee, which has the largest bloc of convention delegates (81) up for grabs in the race, hosted the event. Journalists from the Independent, New Haven Register, and La Voz Hispana posed the questions to the candidates.

Meanwhile, a separate panel of journalists from six Connecticut online news sites commented on the debate in real time, in a conversation that included readers.

To follow that conversation, click on “replay” on the Cover-It Live box below. (To pass over the unrelated pre-debate chatter, scroll down to 7:17 p.m. (It requires going to a second screen.)

The event was live-streamed on six websites around the state. The video will be back up and available for viewing later tonight; to watch it, click on the local online news live-stream box below.

At the debate, all candidates made sure to praise New Haven’s approach to urban policy: embracing immigrants through an ID card and a friendly policing policy; having the state allow cities to enact their own sales taxes; and ambitious school reform plans.

Candidates also tackled an issue that hasn’t come up in previous debates: “ban the box.” That’s the question of whether employers should be prevented from inquiring about a job applicants’ criminal history at the first step in the application process, so they have a chance at an interview. It’s an issue very important in Connecticut cities, which handle a large percentage of released prisoners (about 25 a week in New Haven). New Haven passed a ban the box law for city contractors; the state is considering a similar bill now.

At the debate, Lamont, Marconi, and Figueroa said they support the state ban the box proposal. Jarjura, Malloy and Glassman expressed sympathy with the general concept. But Malloy said he wants to make sure it’s legal first; and he and Jarjura and Glassman said they worried that the law would allow sex offenders to work with school kids. (In fact the proposals do allow for employers to ask about felony convictions; only they have to wait until the interview.)

The candidates agreed often through the night, though they sought to distinguish themselves with specific proposals. Marconi, for instance, several times spoke of bringing tolls back to Connecticut highways to bring in needed revenue. Malloy said he’d sign a bill allowing all Connecticut high school graduates—including immigrants—to qualify for in-state tuition rates at public universities. He also spoke twice about “transit-oriented development”—the idea of building housing and retail near train stations, for instance.

The candidates also endorsed the idea of having a Latino candidate on the statewide Democratic ticket this year, if possible. Figueroa, who’s Latino, offered himself as that candidate.

News websites broadcasting the debate live and participating in the commenting panel included the New Haven Independent, CT News Junkie, the Valley Independent Sentinel, Only in Bridgeport, Local Online News, and the Advocate/Weekly sites.

Click the play arrow below in case you missed the live action.