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Competitive City Council race brings cash haul, three frontrunners emerge

Three frontrunners have emerged in the home stretch of the race to fill outgoing Richmond 5th District Councilman Parker Agelasto’s seat. Stephanie Lynch, Jer’Mykeal McCoy and Thad Williamson are almost neck-and-neck in regard to fundraising totals, voter enthusiasm and public presence, according to political analyst Bob Holsworth.

Capital News Service

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By Morgan Edwards

Three frontrunners have emerged in the home stretch of the race to fill outgoing Richmond 5th District Councilman Parker Agelasto’s seat. Stephanie Lynch, Jer’Mykeal McCoy and Thad Williamson are almost neck-and-neck in regard to fundraising totals, voter enthusiasm and public presence, according to political analyst Bob Holsworth.

With less than three weeks until election day, the seven candidates are working to connect with residents in their district and explaining their stances on key topics.

Earlier this month Richmond Mayorathon held a Focus on the 5th Forum at Randolph Community Center. In attendance were Lynch, McCoy, Williamson, Nicholas Da Silva, Robin Mines, and Chuck Richardson. Candidates Graham Sturm and Mamie Taylor were not present. On Friday, Sturm officially announced that he was dropping out of the race and endorsing Lynch.

“On November 5th, my name will appear on the ballot. When I cast my vote, it will be for Stephanie. Join me in doing the same,” Sturm said in a letter posted to his Facebook page.

New campaign finance reports show Williamson with a slim $133 lead over Lynch. Williamson has raised $22,554 since filing as a candidate. Lynch has raised $22,421. McCoy is not far behind with $18,100 raised. Da Silva and Taylor have raised $8,379 and $2,400, respectively.

Holsworth, who is a managing partner at DecideSmart consulting firm, says the election is still anyone’s game.

“Many of the older residents in the district retain considerable fondness for Chuck Richardson, and Mamie Taylor has actually won a race for school board in the district,” Holsworth said. “With so many candidates in the race, it is certainly possible that the victor will have less than a clear majority of the votes.”

Taylor said her background as a journalist and educator and experience serving on the Richmond City School Board sets her apart from opponents.

“I have a proven history of being incredibly transparent. It’s embedded in me from being a journalist,” Taylor said. “What I know I will always make sure the people know.”

A hot button issue that is driving the race is the $1.5 billion development proposed for the Navy Hill neighborhood. The Navy Hill development was proposed by NH District Corp. in February 2018 and is structured around replacing the aging Richmond Coliseum. It is supported by Mayor Levar Stoney and is currently undergoing review by City Council. All seven candidates oppose the development in its current form.

“Whether it’s protecting taxpayer dollars, funding our schools and basic city services, ensuring access to affordable housing, or being accountable and transparent, these are priorities in question in the Navy Hill deal and [issues] that I’ve heard from voters they want their next city councilperson to deliver on,” Lynch said.

Lynch said she is confident about her chances going into Election Day. She contends that the combination of small donations and voter outreach is giving her the last-minute boost she needs.

“Every day that I knock on doors and talk to people across the 5th, I’m encouraged not only because our campaign’s message is resonating, but because people are really engaged and focused on this race,” Lynch said.

The special election is designed to find a replacement for Agelasto, who is voluntarily resigning in November one year before his term ends. The large number of candidates on the ballot and the fact that no other major office is up for grabs in Richmond has been attracting extra attention from voters and local media.

However, Holsworth predicts that the election may be won in the trenches, rather than in the headlines.

“Old fashioned retail politics – gaining support from community groups, knocking on doors, and developing a ‘buzz’ within the district – is likely to be crucial to the outcome,” Holsworth said.

Taylor says she has purposely avoided participating in corporate-backed events such as Focus on the 5th because she prefers to operate a grass-roots campaign.

Williamson says he enjoys speaking at the forums so voters can get an in-depth look at how he would potentially operate as a city councilman.

“I am pleased that our campaign has done a great job laying out a clear vision of my priorities as a potential City Council member, providing in-depth policy statements on a range of issues, and demonstrating the extensive experience and effectiveness I have already demonstrated as a change agent in local government,” Williamson said. “In each of the candidate forums, I provided a substantive, in-depth and informed answer to every question posed, and we have shared detailed ideas on issues from potholes to education on our website and in candidate questionnaires.”

Williamson said he is focused on addressing Richmond’s education system. According to the candidates interviewed, education is at the top of almost every voter’s list when it comes to issues they care about.

“At the doors, many voters list schools as their top concern, but others are concerned with traffic safety and public safety more generally, expanding job opportunities, housing, potholes, taking care of our parks, and the general performance of city government,” Williamson said. “Without doubt schools is the most common concern.”

McCoy said that campaigning in a competitive race has not fazed him. He sees Richmond’s revival in recent years as an exciting opportunity to tackle new obstacles.

“Richmond has an energy about it that it has not had for a while and it is a beautiful thing,” McCoy said. “We have to figure out how we grow as a city, but more importantly how we grow together. And that is what this campaign is about.”

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Vindicatrix sat atop the column at the Jefferson Davis Monument. On Wednesday afternoon she came and other symbols of the Confederacy came down.

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Vindicatrix sat atop the column at the Jefferson Davis Monument. On Wednesday afternoon she came and other symbols of the Confederacy came down. The history of the statue was the subject of a recent Richmond Magazine article.

 

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Photos: J.E.B. Stuart’s Last Ride

Monday morning the city removed the J.E.B. Stuart statue.

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New Virtual Series “Science Shorts” at Science Museum of Virginia

Encouraged by the popularity of the astronomy shows broadcast on Facebook and Zoom-based Lunch Break Science presentations, educators are producing another virtual weekly series dubbed Science Shorts as another way to keep supporters connected to the Museum.

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Due to the hands-on interactive nature of the Science Museum of Virginia, they made the tough decision not to open their doors as the commonwealth enters Phase 3. That doesn’t mean the learning is going to stop. On June 30th they launched Science Shorts so that everyone can virtually experience STEM demonstrations in the labs and exhibits.

Image Courtesy of Science Museum of Virginia

What:
While guests cannot currently visit the Science Museum of Virginia to experience STEM demonstrations in the labs and exhibits, the Museum wants to make sure the public does not forget that there is science all around them, and that they can explore engaging science principals from home in fun and creative ways.

Encouraged by the popularity of the astronomy shows broadcast on Facebook and Zoom-based Lunch Break Science presentations, educators are producing another virtual weekly series dubbed Science Shorts as another way to keep supporters connected to the Museum.

Starting June 30, education team members will offer a less than five minute video explaining a science topic through a demonstration or activity. The Museum will then post follow-up resources that build on the topic in the video on its website for social followers to continue exploring from home.

When:
The Science Short shows will air weekly on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. beginning June 30.

Who:
Curious-minded guests of all ages are invited to watch the videos and try out the activities at home. There is no registration or fee required.

Where:
The programs will be posted on the Museum’s social media channels: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. The corresponding activity guide will accessible on the Museum’s website.

Why:
Social followers have responded positively to the STEM at Home activities the Museum has posted since the public closure in mid-March, but also have expressed missing the educator-led interactions for which the Museum is known. Staff believe the Science Shorts will offer the demo experience guests enjoyed while at the Museum, the directions for conducting science at home and the reminder that quarantining and summer break does not mean forgetting about science.

The Museum is also using these digital videos to highlight the importance of science in our everyday lives and offer a dose of inspiration no matter where the audience is located.

How:
The new virtual series is made possible thanks to the generous support of WestRock.

Image Courtesy of Science Museum of Virginia

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