It’s About the Incumbent: Five Richmond Mayor Candidates Debate in Zoom Forum

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Candidates for the Richmond mayor’s race took turns establishing their policy priorities and attacking the incumbent in the Southside Mayoral Forum held on Tuesday via Zoom. The candidates answered questions focused on economic and political priorities and better road and parks infrastructure.

Incumbent Mayor Levar Stoney touted his record on public education funding. “A public budget is a document of priorities. And over the course of the last 4 years you’ve seen this administration be able to fund its priorities,” he said. “Our number one priority being public education, $30 million in new money to Richmond Public Schools since I became mayor, living up to a promise I made to this community when I ran for mayor four years ago.”

Richmond Councilmember Kim Gray replied, “When we talk about the historic investments in our schools, we need to look at the results. And when children are worse off after you’ve sent more money over to the school district, that’s a serious problem.”

She said, “At my core, I believe in equality and racial justice. I do not defend symbols or monuments representing hate or bigotry. But what I do defend is a a civil process, a dialogue, and it’s how this country was founded.” Gray has requested an investigation into contracts Stoney used to have some of Richmond’s Confederate monuments removed.

Candidate Alexsis Rodgers has a background in civic activism and has worked for organizations including Planned Parenthood. “We still have deep divides along race and class lines here in the city, and that has to be the number one issue that the mayor tackles head-on,” Rodgers said. “We need a leader that’s going to look at every single agency within our government to advance racial equity.”

“We have to first address bringing back peace and order to the city and restoring confidence of the safety of coming into the city,” said candidate Justin Griffin. “We deserve better leadership during times of crisis. Over the last four months our people have suffered while our leadership has been too weak to stop the destruction of our city, and the harming, harassing, and intimidation of our people and our business owners.”

Tracey McLean said, “I am running because I am the voice of the people.” “[Richmond residents] talk to me basically about having someone in [office] that’s not a politician, having someone in that’s not looking to further their career. Having someone in that’s not argumentative at all times and not deceitful.”

Richmond-based pundit Paul Goldman told The Virginia Star, “Every race is about the incumbent, whether he’s on the ballot or not.” Goldman thinks Stoney will struggle to win enough wards to be re-elected. He’s watching Gray, but Rodgers has powerful endorsements and good money. As for Griffin and the others, Goldman said, “They’re just spoilers.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network.  Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Richmond Mayoral Forum” by Whit Clements.

 

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