Fundraising frontrunners emerge in 5th District City Council race, voters concerned over Navy Hill

Libby Dozier, Contributing Writer

Former 5th District City Councilman Parker Agelasto resigned earlier this year after lawsuits were filed concerning his decision to move out of the district. Now, after one candidate — high school teacher Graham Sturm — dropped out and endorsed social worker Stephanie Lynch, seven are vying for the spot. Here is what each of the candidates raised throughout their campaigns:

  • Thad Williamson: $30,073
  • Jer’Mykeal McCoy: $22,223
  • Stephanie Lynch: $29,257
  • Nicholas Da Silva: $8,761
  • Mamie Taylor: $2,800
  • Robin Mines: $925
  • Chuck Richardson: $5,318
  • Graham Sturm: $6,365 

The candidates raised more than $100,000 over the course of the election, and three candidates accounted for over half of that number. Jer’Mykeal McCoy, Thad Williamson and Stephanie Lynch each raised between $20,000 and $30,000 as of Oct. 24, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, or VPAP. Da Silva was fourth in donations and raised $8,761. 

The three candidates who raised the most money in the 5th District received more than half of their funds from fewer than 50 individual donors. 

Williamson spent the most in the race with almost $22,000 as of Oct. 24. Lynch came in second with $13,506 and McCoy in third with $6,667.

Campaigns need budgets and resources to reach voters, so certainly campaign contributions matter in helping a campaign be competitive,” Williamson said. “While I’m proud our campaign has the largest base of donors in the race, in the end it’s about the votes, not the dollars. And that’s exactly how it should be.”

Williamson teaches at the University of Richmond. He previously served as co-chair of the Maggie Walker Initiative for Expanding Opportunity and Fighting Poverty and worked to create the Office of Community Wealth Building. As the senior policy advisor for Mayor Levar Stoney, he contributed to the development of the RVA Education Compact.

Lynch received her bachelor’s degree from VCU in psychology and gender studies, and a master’s degree in social work administration and policy. She’s worked for the Virginia Department of Social Services and the Special Appointee on Health and Human Resource Integration, where she assisted in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Lynch said her own fundraising strategy was to get those large donations first so she could then spend more time knocking on doors and talking to voters.

The last of our time and treasure will be spent engaging as many 5th district residents before November 5th as we can,” Lynch said in a Facebook post. “It would be a true blessing to get to work for and with the 5th District community.”

McCoy is originally from Tennessee and is the son of a Navy veteran. He is a business development manager with Schutt Sports and a capstone advisor at Georgetown University. McCoy is also the president of the Urban League Greater Richmond Young Professionals. 

Da Silva is a recent VCU graduate with a degree in political science. During his time there, he was the head of the Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter at the university. He was inspired to run for office after witnessing the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville last summer where a white nationalist drove a car into a group of protestors.

“Locally, in my experience, it matters more whether a candidate has a good volunteer team, a message which connects to voters, and whether they spend time at doors, which may be helped by having large donors but can’t be bought,” Da Silva said.

5th District resident Daniel Coakley said he will cast his vote for Da Silva. 

“He [Da Silva] has a history of activism and fighting for the community,” Coakley said. “Thad Williamson is just a stooley of the mayor, he won’t be an independent voice on the council.”

Christina Ramirez, who lives in the 5th District, voted for Da Silva and said opposition to the Navy Hill plan was her top priority.

“No Navy Hill magic plan is my top issue,” Ramirez said.

One key issue among voters in the 5th District is the Navy Hill development project — which would redevelop 10 blocks in downtown Richmond near the Coliseum — that was announced earlier this year.

Leslie Rubio, a 5th District resident, also planned to vote for Lynch. She said her opposition to Navy Hill and “focus on community” made her an appealing candidate.

“She’s smart and community-oriented,” Rubio said of Lynch. “She will keep Amy Robins if she wins.”

Amy Robins is the City Council liaison for the 5th District and an organizer for RVA Clean Sweep.

“I’ve been told that Stephanie Lynch opposes the Navy Hill,” 5th District resident James Sties said via Facebook. “Also her concerns seem to be more about the average citizen’s needs rather than to have the City take on her personal philosophy about societal needs.”

Mamie Taylor raised $2,800 and campaigned to prioritize Richmond Public Schools.

“I’m voting for Mamie Taylor,” said Jameson Price, a resident of the 5th district, via Facebook. “She is a former RPS teacher and board member will prioritize school and against the Navy Hill development.”

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