To become the mayor of Richmond, a candidate must win the most votes out of all candidates in at least five of Richmond’s nine districts. If no candidate wins five districts, the top two candidates go to a run-off election. That creates a situation where a candidate can win the election without winning the popular vote, much like the U.S. Presidential election. More importantly, the system forces candidates to have support in a broader cross-section of Richmond neighborhoods.
Pundit Paul Goldman helped craft Richmond’s mayoral election law. He told The Virginia Star that the goal was to balance the power of Richmond’s wealthier districts with lower income and African American districts. “That was our way of sort of evening out the power between those who were working class and didn’t quite have the financial heft as [districts] one and four,” Goldman said.
Goldman is betting on Kim Gray to win the election. Based on her support in districts one, two, three, and four, Gray only needs to take one district away from incumbent Stoney, who is defending districts five, six, seven, eight, and nine. But Gray has received support from Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond.) Morrissey represents Virginia’s 16th Senate district which includes part of Richmond’s eighth district. Goldman said the Senator is popular among his constituents. Additionally, Goldman said eighth district City Councilmember Reva Trammell also supports Gray.
“The key to Stoney’s winning [is] eight and nine, which he lost to Joe Morrissey [in 2016] who is backing Gray,” Goldman said. “Statistically that’s a problem, because he carried the second last time, but that’s Gray’s district. So if he loses that, I think he’s got trouble in three, which he carried the last time. So he’s got to win five through nine but he lost two of those the last time, so he doesn’t have a base there.”
Goldman said he doesn’t expect challenger Alexsis Rodgers to win the election, or even a single district. Nonetheless, he said Rodgers is clearly a rising star, and he wouldn’t be surprised if she ran for House of Delegates in 2021.
“She raised a terrific amount of money. She’s proven a pretty good campaigner, I think. Whoever she’s got working for her is pretty slick, I’ve seen their stuff, they’re not amateurs. So I have to give her marks for running a very good first campaign,” Goldman said. “It’s going to be hard for her not to exceed expectations.”
Goldman said Rodgers has reached an unrepresented constituency — young progressives who didn’t align with Stoney. That’s in contrast to Justin Griffin, who has struggled to gain traction in part because he targeted voters who already aligned with Gray or Stoney.
“Gray has a better chance of winning five districts: one, two, three, four, and eight,” Goldman said. “I could see that for Kim, I could. Five of nine for Stoney, I think that’s hard.”
Goldman added, “I think [Stoney’s] five through nine is harder for him to get than Gray’s.”
Full disclosure: In September, the John Fredericks Radio Network donated $400 to Kim Gray’s campaign.
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