While most of the attention politics has drawn this year has been focused on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and the historic presidential election taking place this year, for Richmond residents, there is another race going on—one that will have a more substantial, day-to-day impact on their lives than the presidential election. That race is the Richmond mayoral race, and it has six men and women on the ballot on Election Day, Tuesday, November 8. A mayor in Richmond can serve two four-year terms but must vacate the office after that, something Richmond’s current mayor, Dwight Jones is about to do. While Jones is trying to make the most of his last months in office, there is a fierce battle brewing to take his place.
The race to replace Mayor Jones is a crowded one, and leading the way are Joe Morrissey, a former Democrat and magnet for controversy; and Jack Berry, a former executive of Venture Richmond, a group touted on Berry’s website as “a public-private partnership that promotes the economic development of downtown Richmond, manages the Riverfront Canal Walk, and produces major festivals and events, including Friday Cheers, 2nd Street Festival, and the Richmond Folk Festival.” These two candidates have been polled as receiving 28 and 16 percent of the vote, respectively, by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, which conducted the poll in late August. Michelle Mosby was the only other candidate to make it into double digit territory, coming in with ten percent of the vote. The other candidates—Jon Baliles, Levar Stoney, Lawrence Williams, and Bobby Junes—are polling in the single digits, and each would have to be incredibly fortunate to become the next mayor. All these men and women were present at a recent debate hosted by the Richmond Times Dispatch on September 15, and the discussion was heated and tense at times. From Joe Morrissey going after Levar Stoney, to Lawrence Williams accusing Joe Morrissey of exploiting the African American community, the candidates got personal in an attempt to win over the hoards of undecided voters.
That the clear leader in this race is Joe Morrissey is somewhat of a surprise, considering his controversial past. He made national headlines for impregnating his at-the-time 17-year-old law firm receptionist. He was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and served a three-month work release program, all while still in the Virginia House of Delegates. He later married the receptionist—Myrna Warren—earlier this year, and they have two children together. While it might seem like Morrissey would be hard-pressed to find support in any of Richmond’s nine precincts, he has—mostly through personal interactions and his loyalty to his constituents. He was recently endorsed by the Richmond Crusade for Voters, a group whose purpose is “increasing effective black participation in Richmond’s political process.” While many candidates have similar ideas on how to improve Richmond and its government, Morrissey promises to focus on “potholes, clearing the alleys, cutting the grass. We’re going to remove snow and leaves in a timely fashion. We’re taking care of our first responders, and fixing our schools.” While this does not vary too much from what any of the other candidates are promising, Morrissey does have the most experience in an oftentimes challenging political climate. He served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and is an experienced attorney that has run his own law practice.
Following Morrissey in the polls is Jack Berry, a former executive who has worked in a variety of public service roles in counties around Richmond. He has worked as the County Administrator of Hanover County, as well as the Deputy City Manager and Chief of Staff for the City of Richmond, according to his website. He has campaigned extensively around the Richmond area, holding 70 events over the last four months, and promises to attack poverty, improve regional transport, and build a city government that can provide “basic, essential service really well, and expertly manages City finances.”
However, if either of these men are to become mayor, they must win over five of the nine precincts around Richmond. According to the same poll that gave Morrissey 28 percent of the vote, he also has a “commanding” lead in three of the necessary nine districts. If he cannot win the remaining two precincts necessary, he will be forced into a run off with the second place finisher on December 20th. However, he is hoping to convince the hoards of unsure voters that he is the right choice for them. The candidate who has the best shot to sneak into the top two is Levar Stoney, who has copious amounts of experience in a variety of public servant roles, and has managed to raise the most money ever for a Richmond mayoral race.
Featured image: Daniel Sangjib Min/Richmond Times-Dispatch.