Originally published in the Autumn 2020 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 63, printed October 29. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Autumn 2020 issue or download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.
PRESIDENT & VICE PRESIDENT
None of the above
As for the Greens, four years ago we endorsed Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka, but this time we are severely disappointed that the Greens failed to distinguish themselves from the Democrats, by also running an older white man for president and a younger Black woman for vice. After months of the national anti-racist Rebellion, this is a telling failure. As a party, the Greens still don’t get the importance of the struggle against racism.
Endorsed, with reservations
Alexis Rodgers is running as a progressive, despite her record as a policy director for then-Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam. Her other career has been in the nonprofit world, which always raises questions for us. But the main concern is that she’s so new to Richmond. We already have one recent-come-here in charge. We hope she wins, if only to weaken the Marsh-Jones-McQuinn machine’s hold on the city, which, in return for perks and limited personal power, works hand-in-glove with the city’s overwhelmingly white corporate class to keep the profits flowing and community empowerment to a minimum. We would feel more comfortable if Rodgers first had put in the time and effort to get to know the city and its challenges, but if she wins, we will wish her the best.
Levar Stoney – A pro-corporate, professional Democratic Party operative shepherded into office by Terry “The-Outside-Fund-Raiser” McAuliffe. Stoney shamelessly promoted Dominion’s Thomas F. Farrell II’s Navy Hill Project. Goes along with the Master Plan to drive the poor out of Richmond, particularly by destroying public housing. Presided over tearing down the Camp Cathy homeless encampment. And, as the city’s chief executive, bears the main responsibility for the brutal police repression of the anti-racist Rebellion.
Kimberly Gray – Despite years of good work in the community on the issues of schools and homelessness, Gray chose to spend the recent Rebellion supporting the police and attacking the protesters. This follows her years of accommodating the upper-income whites in her Monument Avenue district who long opposed taking down the white-supremacist Confederate statues. Time to go.
Justin Griffin – A one-issue (Navy Hill) candidate who recently drew a distinction between “homeless” and “regular” people.
Tracey Mclean – Has a generally progessive platform, but seems to lack the experience necessary for the position.
1st District – Anyone but Mike Dickinson, a completely reactionary, pro-cop, Trump wannabe.
2nd – No preference
3rd – No preference
4th – No one
Kirsten Larson is running unopposed. We recommend either not voting or else writing in someone else.
Like Gray, Larson had a good track record while on the school board and seems to be popular in her district, a largely middle-class area where, according to Larson, the biggest problem is a lack of sidewalks. But she and Gray were the last two council members to agree to take down the Confederate statues, and for that reason alone Larson should get a less-than-enthusiastic voter turnout. Maybe it would grab her attention.
5th: STEPHANIE LYNCH
Stephanie Lynch, a social worker, has distinguished herself, along with 9th District Councilmember Michael Jones, by willing to promote serious police reforms. She’s also shown up at Rebellion protests, although she has been criticized by some activists for leaving before things got frisky, and also for voting for the city to accept a half-million-dollar federal grant for the police department. Lynch maintains the grant was to address COVID-19 issues in the RPD, sheriff’s department and the Richmond commonwealth’s attorney office. But overall, she’s been a breath of fresh air on council and we want to see her continue in that position.
One of Lynch’s opponents, Taylor Maloney, is a young Black activist, a political science major at Virginia Commonwealth University and president of the VCU Student Government Association. They have been out in the streets in the Rebellion both as a leader and participant. Maloney is a latecomer to the election campaign and so is running a write-in campaign, but, to our knowledge, hasn’t developed a campaign Facebook page, website or platform. We wish her the best in her future endeavors, in or out of politics.
6th: ALLAN-CHARLES CHIPMAN with reservations
As a self-styled progressive, Allan-Charles Chipman’s day job has been, according to progressivevoterguide.com, a “financial advisor while working for Fortune 500 companies to make sure they stay within budget.” We’re not really familiar with his community work, since our paths apparently don’t cross, but he earned a perfect score on our Candidate Questionnaire. We don’t have any particular concerns, other than his apparent lack of a track record on local issues.
On the other hand, the incumbent, Ellen Robertson, supported the pro-corporate Navy Hill project and also advocated for the removal of Camp Cathy. While we believe Ms. Robertson has made her contributions, such as promoting affordable housing, it’s time for a change in the poorest district in the city.
7th: JOSEPH ROGERS
Joseph Rogers gets our unqualified endorsement. A former call center supervisor and now museum educator, he has distinguished himself by his daily volunteer community activism on many critical issues. He was consistently out on the streets during the Rebellion. As a member of the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality, he has worked hard to promote the reclamation and proper memorialization of Shockoe Bottom. He has worked closely with Justice and Reformation, the advocacy group led by the family of Marcus-David Peters, helping to promote the Marcus Alert and civilian review boards on the city and state level. He also chairs the People of Color Caucus of the Richmond chapter of Democratic Socialists of America. Whether or not he is elected to city council, we know he will continue to make important contributions to the community.
Rogers’s opponent in the race is the incumbent, Cynthia Newbille, who also is city council president. Newbille used to have a good reputation when she headed the East End’s Family Resource Center, but once elected to council she quickly lined up with the Marsh-Jones-McQuinn machine. She supported the Navy Hill project, voted against moving funds from the police department to human services and only very recently came out in support of the community proposal for the nine-acre Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park. It’s past time for a real change.
8th – AMY WENTZ with reservations
Amy Wentz is a U.S. Army veteran who now works for the Department of Defense. She helps oversee Visit BLK RVA, a campaign of Richmond Region Tourism and also is a co-founder of the Richmond Black Restaurant Experience. She initially supported the Navy Hill project. Her platform is long on progressive promises, but seems short on specifics.
Her opponent, incumbent Reva Trammell, has long been known as a staunch ally of the police. She resisted years of calls to take down the city’s Confederate monuments and, despite many promises, has failed to bring real economic benefits to her working-class district. On the other hand, she has been exemplary in responding to requests for help by her constituents and hosts what are likely the largest and most multiracial district meetings in the city. She also opposed the Navy Hill project. In short, a mixed record, but again, it’s time for a change.
As for Regie Ford, we are familiar with his former performance as president of the Richmond Crusade for Voters, and we are not impressed.
9th – No endorsement
The incumbent, Michael Jones, is a pastor at Villages of Faith Ministries in Richmond and holds a doctorate in ministry. He is running unopposed. During his first term on council, he has distinguished himself by vocally opposing Confederate monuments and promoting police reform.
On the downside, he supported the Navy Hill project, publicly stood with Mayor Stoney when the mayor falsely claimed to have $3.5 million available for the Shockoe Bottom Memorial Park and has taken credit for leading the fight on issues that actual grassroots activists have been leading for years. Further, he has donated $1,000 to the election campaig of 7th District Councilwoman Cynthia Newbille, further exosing himself as a member or wannabe member of the anti-democratic Marsh-Jones-McQuinn machine.
Until someone better comes along, we would prefer to see Jones remain on council, but no endorsement.
3rd – KENYA GIBSON
Kenya Gibson, a working mother, has proven herself as a progressive, anti-racist leader since first being elected to the School Board in 2016. A stand-out elected official.
Her opponent, Sabrina Gross, also promotes progressive values, but does not have Gibson’s track record. So, if it ain’t broke …
4th – DEANNA FIERRO
Deanna Fierro is a parent of a public school student, taught for seven years in Richmond Public School and holds a Masters in Educational Leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University. In 2019 she helped organize the RedforEd march to the state Capitol to promote increased public school funding.
Incumbent Jonathan Young was the only member of the school board to vote against changing the names of public schools honoring Confederate figures. Time to go.