The runoff election for Los Angeles mayor took center stage Monday night at the first of two mayoral debates to be hosted by the University of Southern California.City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel faced off at the debate, held at Louis B. Mayer Auditorium on USC’s Health Sciences Campus. The debate was co-hosted by NBC4 and its Spanish-language partner, Telemundo52, along with KPCC 89.3 and the Sol Price School of Public Policy.NBC4 chief political reporter Conan Nolan moderated the debate and was joined on stage by three panelists who presented questions throughout the debate: Jack H. Knott, dean of USC Price; Frank Stoltze, KPCC crime and politics reporter; and Ana Patricia Candiani, Telemundo52 news anchor.Detailed debate · Mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti speaks to media after the debate (top). Candidate Wendy Greuel speaks during the debate (bottom). Both articulated different platforms during the debate at HSC. – Courtesy of McClatchy-Tribune CampusThe debate covered a wide range of issues facing the city, including jobs and the economy, pension reform, a growing budget problem, education policy, public transportation and safety.For two candidates who many view to be similar on policy, each went into Monday night’s debate hoping to draw distinctions in leadership qualities and communication skills.For Greuel, who trailed Garcetti by 10 points in a Price/Los Angeles Times poll released Sunday, the importance of last night’s debate could not be overstated.Early on, Greuel demonstrated a strategy built on personal experience and highlighting the failures of her opponent. Greuel singled out what she called mishaps during Garcetti’s city-council term in her first two opportunities to speak.At other times, Greuel heavily cited her experience in the public and private sector and the endorsement of her campaign by former President Bill Clinton, but had to be redirected to the question at hand on more than one occasion by the panelists.Garcetti also openly criticized Greuel for what he felt were personal attacks.“These personal attacks are the signs of a desperate and losing campaign,” Garcetti said. “Let’s get back to the issues.”Garcetti drew on his tenure as city councilman to boost his record, particularly on the issue of the Los Angeles economy. Garcetti also demonstrated a focused and methodical approach to each question, answering with specific and organized policy proposals, and emphasized strengths, such as his track record in stimulating the workforce.“In the midst of the recession, my district was No. 1 in job growth,” Garcetti said.Students who attended the debate shared different perspectives about the issues most important to them, but many agreed that Garcetti was more effective in communicating his stance overall.“I think Councilman Garcetti won the debate — his point of view was very sharp, and he has a good perspective on job growth,” said Xiaolong Feng, a master’s student in urban planning. “To me, the issue of transportation is most important because my major is transportation planning. Many foreign students rely on public transit, so that is also very important to us.”Nandini Ruparel, a sophomore majoring in English, said the issue regarding public transportation also resonated most with her.“As a USC student, the public transportation issue is really important, especially to students without cars,” Ruparel said.The second mayoral debate will be held at the Galen Center on May 5.