RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Lights, camera, action. The five people competing for Richmond’s highest office took the center stage Thursday night, facing off against each other for the first time.
Hosted by 8News and Virginia Union University, former governor Douglas Wilder and 8News anchor Juan Conde moderated. From 5 to 7 p.m., candidates were asked questions ranging from the efficiency of city services, to school funding, to police accountability. The candidates had either 60 or 30 seconds to answer and some of them brought the heat.
Among the running are incumbent Mayor Levar Stoney and Richmond City Councilwoman Kim Gray. There were also three new faces: business woman Tracey McLean, Virginia State Director for the Care in Action chapter of the National Domestic Workers Alliance Alexsis Rogers, and Justin Griffin, a local attorney.
In order for a mayoral candidate to take the seat, they must win at least five of the city’s nine districts.
On Thursday night, almost all the candidates took turns taking jabs at the Stoney administration.
“Just about everything we deal with in the city government is failing us,” Griffin said. The attorney said he was inspired to run after publicly speaking out about Stoney’s plan for the Richmond Coliseum last year. “It’s time for a change in Richmond and it’s time to do things the right way,” he said.
Gray has been vocal about her goals to improve Richmond’s schools. On Thursday, she said the city’s next mayor needs to commit to “modernizing” RPS schools. She didn’t give up a chance to jab at Stoney, once again questioning the controversial monument removals.
“The question should be more about whether or not our mayor and city administration believe they are above the law,” she said. “There are some questionable contracts,” she said.
To that, Stoney defended himself. “Any person who does or will do a review will find that it was legal, appropriate, and it was right,” he said.
Among the various topics covered is how the city should make the most of its strained financial resources due to the pandemic. McLean said any surplus money from the budget should be given to people in Richmond who need it.
“We have an eviction and homelessness problem so we need to make sure the people get the money. If there’s a 13 million surplus, 13 million needs to go out to the community,” she said.
Rodgers is known as the most progressive candidate. She’s running, in part, on police reform. “It’s been 864 days since Marcus David-Peters was killed in Richmond and I regret that this mayor and even some of my opponents have only recently determined that its ok to examine ways to change our policing in the city of Richmond,” she said. All but Griffin said they support a civilian review board.
Much more was covered Thursday night including schools, violence in the city, and whether any would increase taxes. Read the full Q and A from the debate transcribed here.