The mayoral forum sponsored by the city Democratic Committee quickly turned personal last Tuesday.
Former Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney called for good judgement and character in a mayoral hopeful — a statement former state delegate Joe Morrissey seemed to take as an insult.
“At the end of the day, when you end up on the front page of the newspaper, or on the news for something controversial, something uncomplimentary or something that can embarrass the city, it takes us 10, 20 steps back,” Stoney said. “We can’t afford that.”
Morrissey spent time in jail and was subsequently elected to the House of Delegates while serving his sentence in 2015. Morrissey took an Alford Plea to contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a then 17-year-old intern at his law office who Morrissey married this summer.
Morrissey quickly fired back at Stoney by mentioning a 2004 incident where Stoney gave a false account to police about Democratic political interns slashing the tires of a Republican party van. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Stoney testified in the trial of five defendants.
“In regard to this, ‘not ending up on the front page,’ Levar, I don’t know if you’re talking about me or if you’re talking about the front page being in Michigan and slashing tires with a knife,” Morrissey said.
At this point, moderator and former City Councilwoman Willie Dell intervened.
“Let me remind you that all of us adults, and some of us are not acting like responsible adults, and if we’ve got somebody on stage who’s being crazy — there’s no need for the audience to multiply it,” Dell said. “Let me remind the candidates that this is not a place to work on your own personal agenda.”
The forum was also missing two of the eight candidates — City Council President Michelle Mosby (9th District, South Central) and Councilman Jon Baliles (1st District, West End) — due to a City Council meeting that conflicted with the event.
Stoney, Morrissey, former Venture Richmond executive Jack Berry, architect Lawrence Williams, former City Councilman Bruce Tyler and retired real estate consultant Bobby Junes covered issues such as city finances, improving public education, reducing poverty and overcoming racial tension in the city for the remainder of the debate.
“We immediately need to get a handle on where the money is going, then we have to assess the leadership,” Berry said. “We’ve got to change the culture in City Hall so people want to come to work each day.”
Stoney supporter and debate attendee Charles Moore said he desires a candidate who values transparency and focuses on kids.
“The future lies with the children, so if they don’t see a positive outcome in terms of their expectations for the future then we aren’t doing our job,” Moore said. “I think the mayor should be a highly visible mayor in all communities and then I think morality. Faith is also very important.”
Sarah Rose Martin, Contributing Writer