The Nov. 8 election matters for more than just president. In Richmond, voters will decide who represents the 4th congressional district, their district for City Council and School Board, and the next mayor of the city.
With a week until the Nov. 8 election, the second district City Council candidates Rebecca Keel, Kim Gray and Charlie Diradour are making final efforts to get their names and messages out to voters.
Keel, who recently finished graduate school at VCU, was treasurer of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and lobbied in the General Assembly for drug reform which helped pass the Good Samaritan Policy, which protects people who seek medical attention as a result of illegal activity.
Keel said she hopes to change the narrative of who can run in — and win — elections. She hopes her run will inspire other millennials to pursue public positions as well.
Gray is also a VCU graduate. She started her career in public service working in the Head Start Program, then in the Warner administration. She has also worked as a rehabilitation counselor.
“I can be trusted to do the job, I am very transparent and accountable,” Gray said. “I am accessible to the community that I serve.”
Diradour currently serves on the state commission on small business, he previously served on the Board of the Virginia Senate of Inclusive Community and was a staffer for Vice President Al Gore.
“The slogan we are connecting with the most is the city government is hindering progress of artists and small businesses,” Diradour said. “We need to get budget under control, know where it is and how to find it. People are concerned about core city services and that is what I’m talking about.”
Gray has received endorsements from The Richmond City Democratic Committee, the Richmond Education Association and the current second district seat holder, Charles Samuels, who is not running for reelection.
Diradour has received his own endorsements from the Richmond Coalition of Police, the Richmond Professional Firefighters Association, the Richmond Association of Realtors, the Home Builders Association of Richmond and The Richmond Crusade for Voters.
“The biggest endorsement one can receive is a vote on Nov. 8,” Diradour said.
Fifth district City Councilman Parker Agelasto faces competition from Garrett Sawyer and Montigue Magruder in his bid for reelection next week.
The incumbent moved to Richmond during his college years when he attended Bates College in Maine and moved to Richmond upon completing his M.A. In Art History and M.B.A. from the University of Virginia. He began working at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts afterward.
He serves as the Vice-Chair of the Finance and Economic Development Standing Committee, member of the Education and Human Services Standing Committee, member of the Organization Development Standing Committee, and alternate of the Public Safety Standing Committee.
Agelasto is endorsed by the Richmond Education Associations, Richmond Association of Realtors, Richmond City Democratic Committee, Richmond Coalition of Police, Richmond Firefighters Association IAFF Local 995 Chapter and the Central Virginia Labor Federation.
Sawyer is a lifelong Richmond resident and said he has always been active in the city’s political scene, either canvassing for other politicians or attending city council meetings. He said his slogan, “Move the fifth forward,” represents his pride of his city and how far it has come, yet disappointment in the city’s government dysfunction.
Sawyer is endorsed by the Richmond Crusade for Voters, Homeowners Association of Richmond and the Greater Richmond Regional Democratic Coalition PAC.
Like Sawyer, Magruder is also a Richmond-native. He graduated from Armstrong High School in 2006 and has been a member of the GRTC and Transit Study Task Force and the General Executive Board of the Industrial Workers of the World.
Magruder said his interest in local politics spurred from a 2010 City Council proposal to raise the GRTC fare, which he openly opposed. Magruder has been endorsed by the Richmond Green Party.
For the second district school board candidates, a seat on the board has personal stakes.
Scott Barlow comes from a long line of teachers. He is the son, grandson, nephew, and great-grandson of teachers. At 28 years old, Barlow is among the youngest candidates seeking office in the River City this year.
He said his message is based on “belief that every child, no matter their neighborhood, background, or experiences deserves access to a quality education.”
The Drexel Law School graduate has been endorsed by the Richmond City Democratic Committee and the Richmond Educators Association, an endorsement which he said he holds in high regard because “Richmond’s teachers have an intimate understanding of the issues facing our students in the classroom every day.”
Barlow said his endorsements show he is the candidate best equipped to represent his district in the school board.
These endorsements don’t faze his opponent, Mariah White, who attended Richmond Public Schools and now has two sons doing the same. She said Barlow only received the RCDC endorsement because of his position with the young democrats.
“My opponent is new to Richmond. He just became a registered voter in October 2015,” White stated in an email, “so I feel he does not know the Richmond Public schools or culture.”
She instead touts her endorsements from the Richmond Crusade of Voters, the oldest black voter advocacy organization in the city.
The retired army major has been a Carver Promise Mentor at George Washington Carver Elementary for seven years and has volunteered for Richmond Public Schools since 1994. She is also involved in the policy council and parent committee of the Head Start Program, which provides services to low-income pregnant moms.
“For the past seven years, I have fought for change within Richmond Public schools, demanding equal opportunity for ALL children,” White stated in the email. “I have advocated for better teacher pay, better facilities, Special Education requirements, nurses, and buses.”
Mamie Taylor, who represents Richmond’s Fifth District in the school board, is facing a challenge this yearfrom podiatrist Patrick Sapini.
Sapini is a resident of the Fifth District and has lived in the Randolph Community for the past seven years. As a father with four school-age children, Sapini is active in his community. Among other volunteer activities, Sapini serves as a PTA’s Parent volunteer at Clark Springs, John B. Cary and Linwood Holton elementary schools and is a board member for the Wyatt T. Walker Education Foundation.
In September, Sapini was endorsed by the RCDC, the Richmond Education Association and the Richmond Association of Realtors, endorsements which he said will give him an “edge” in the race.
“These endorsement says that my campaign is credible, my candidacy is being accepted and that my message is resonating with the voters,” Sapini stated. “I still have to do my part and reach each and every voter.”
Taylor, who just served her first term in the school board, has received her own endorsement by the Richmond Crusade of Voters.
“I am very appreciative of the Crusade for Voters endorsement that I have received,” Taylor said. “However, the people in the 5th District have the ultimate say as to who represents them, and their collective voice is the affect on this race that truly matters.”
Taylor is a teacher at Richmond Community and Huguenot High schools. She said that she can give voice to members of her district.
“Everyone has a role to play in making our schools great, and voters should remember that the power is in the hands of the people,” Taylor said. “Elected Officials work for you, and as a result, they should vote for the individual who will give them an ear and a voice – speaking on their behalf – and that is me.”
Fadel is a junior political science major. He is fluent in English, French and Sarcasm, and he probably doesn’t like you. Fadel enjoys writing about local, regional and national politics and making people drive him to Cook-Out. Fadel is too stubborn to write his own bio, so his executive editor had to do it for him. No hard feelings, though.
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Mary Lee Clark
Mary Lee is a senior studying journalism. She currently interns for RVAmag and GayRVA.com, in addition to writing for the CT. She previously worked as a makeup artist at Darkwood Manor, did lighting design at Trackside Theater (where she is now on the Board of Directors) and photographed for the Page News and Courier.
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Hannah Parker, Contributing Writer