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CHICAGO — Former Vice President Al Gore on Friday endorsed longtime friend Bill Daley in the 2019 Chicago mayoral race.

The big-name endorsement comes a day after Daley skipped a TV debate to attend an event with a plumbers’ union — a move that opened him to criticism from other leading candidates.

“He sees one bad story about him and he wilts like a little flower,” Susana Mendoza said. “Chicago’s next mayor needs to have some mettle to take on the challenges that lie ahead for this city.”

Mendoza on Friday challenged Daley to a one-on-one debate.

“Since Bill Daley didn’t have the courage to debate me last night, I’m going to give him another chance,” she said. “Any time, any place. Prove that he has the courage and the mettle to be mayor of Chicago.”

Daley’s campaign dismissed the idea out of hand, responding with a photo of Daley in the situation room during the Osama Bin Laden raid, saying, “Here’s a photo of Bill wilting under pressure.”

Earlier in the day, Daley participated in a televised debate with four other candidates — including Lori Lightfoot, who earned an endorsement from the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board.

Lightfoot sparred with Amara Enyia.

“We have to address short-term issues,” Enyia said, “but we also have to address the long-term issues.”

“Amara,” Lightfoot said, “with all due respect, all you talk about is the long-term. We have an urgent need right now to solve this.”

With the scandal surrounding Ald. Ed Burke as a backdrop, Friday’s debate focused on corruption in city government. The discussion was largely held on the terms of Daley’s proposal to shrink the city council from 50 to 15 members.

“They would not think they’re the mini mayor of that ward,” Daley said.

“Here’s the issue, though, Bill,” Lightfoot said. “If you reduce the number, here’s the concern I have — if you reduce the number, don’t you make them more powerful, instead of less powerful?”

“If you reduce it to 15,” candidate LaShawn Ford said, “you make the mayor more powerful and you reduce representation in communities.”

“The entire structure of government needs to be hit with a hammer and broken down,” candidate Garry McCarthy said.

Daley said attacks against him suggest his campaign is gaining momentum.