Democratic Party of Virginia Invests Heavily in Virginia Beach Mayor’s Race

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Virginia Beach mayoral candidate Jody Wagner out-raised incumbent Bob Dyer in September; Wagner received $321,799, while Dyer received $72,240, according to The Virginia Public Access Project. Furthermore, $167,349 of Wagner’s receipts were in-kind donations from the Democratic Party of Virginia (DPVA).

“Half a million dollars by our opposition with a giant chunk of it coming from the Democratic Party has made what is a traditionally non-partisan office into a partisan election,” Dyer’s Campaign Manager Brian Kirwin told The Virginia Star.

In 2020 so far, Dyer has raised $186,790 while Wagner has raised $588,507.

In-kind donations aren’t the same as cash. “It’s postage and printing. The political parties do that in state races all the time because the political parties get cheaper postage than the campaign does,” Kirwin said. “The Democratic Party has invested six figures of in-kind contributions in her campaign.”

Dyer won the seat in 2018 after a special election when the previous mayor resigned. Kirwin said Dyer has proven himself by how he handled the May 2019 Virginia Beach shooting and economic harm to the city’s tourism industry during COVID-19 shutdowns. Prior to becoming mayor, Dyer served 14 years as a city council member, according to his bio.

“We have a really good police force that when a lot of other mayors have stood down, Bobby Dyer stood with our police, unabashedly so, and I think that’s why he’s doing well,” Delegate Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) said.

Miyares said Virginia Beach is a conservative city with a large number of military veterans.

According to her bio, Wagner is the president of Jody’s Popcorn, a Virginia Beach small business. She also worked as state treasurer under former Governor Mark Warner and as secretary of finance in former Governor Tim Kaine’s cabinet. In 2000, she ran for Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, according to Votesmart.org. According to The Virginia Public Access Project, in 2009, Wagner ran for lieutenant governor.

“[She’s been] a well known Democratic figure in local Democratic politics for well north of two decades, and she said she was inspired to run by watching the [Black Lives Matter] protests,” Miyares said.

The Republican Party of Virginia Beach has endorsed Dyer, while the Democratic Committee of Virginia Beach has endorsed Wagner, according to The Virginian-Pilot.

Richard “RK” Kowalewitch is the third candidate in the race. “Local elections should always be nonpartisan and parties should never be involved,” he told The Virginian-Pilot. “Why are we allowing partisanship in a nonpartisan race?”

Kowalewitch’s campaign has earned just $6,100 according to The Virginia Public Access Project. In 2016, he ran for mayor and he ran for city council in 2018 and 2019.

“We have a very well trained police force, we’re a very, very safe city, we have an incredibly low employment rate, we’re ranked one of the best places to raise a family, so why do we want to make a change, ” Miyares said.  “That’s ultimately going to be [Wagner’s] hardest argument, is why do you make a change?”

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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 “Bob Dyer” by Bob Dyer. Photo “Jody Wagner” by Jody Wagner.

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