By Tony Aiello

STAMFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork) — He led the Mets to the World Series, and now he wants to lead his hometown of Stamford.

Bobby Valentine is up against Caroline Simmons, who has already knocked an incumbent mayor out of the game.

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CBS2’s Tony Aiello recently spoke with both candidates.

All signs point to a hard-fought final three weeks in the race for Stamford mayor. It’s getting more attention than usual with baseball legend Valentine in the lineup, running as an independent.

“The mayor needs to be loyal, he needs to have leadership qualities, he has to have experience. I’m passionate about my hometown of Stamford. They match. I’m doing it,” Valentine said. “Stamford is going to grow and it needs to grow properly.”

Valentine cites his early investment in downtown renewal and experience as public safety director. Mobile 2 caught him helping snowbound drivers a decade ago.

Valentine said improving school facilities will be a big focus if he wins.

“I need to change the perception of our schools because we graduate great students. We have great teachers. We don’t have very good buildings and we need to rebuild them,” he said.

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Democrat Simmons benched the current incumbent, triumphing in a primary. She’s a state representative, a mother of two and is pregnant with her third. She’s also a Harvard graduate who once worked for the Department of Homeland Security.

“I want to be that leader to bring that bold vision to take our city to the next level and help the people of Stamford,” Simmons said.

Simmons also cited infrastructure as high on the next mayor’s to-do list.

“We need to modernize our city. We need to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture billions in federal funding that’s going to be coming to our state, and I’m ready on day one to be that mayor, to work to get that funding from Hartford and from the capital in Washington,” Simmons said.

They are two appealing candidates, so some voters might have a tough choice. Gov. Ned Lamont endorsed Simmons, saying she would be a “great mayor,” but called Valentine “a good guy, a real champion.”

The Republican dropped out and endorsed Valentine’s independent candidacy.

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The first major debate of the race is set for Oct. 19.

Tony Aiello