Stoney front-runner in Richmond mayoral race? Political analyst weighs in

Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — All eyes are on the Richmond mayoral race as the election on November 3 draws near.

8News sat down with political analyst Rich Meagher to get a closer look at the candidates and predictions on the outcome of the race.

Meagher, an associate professor of political science at Randolph Macon College, says issues plaguing the nation like race, police brutality and reform, as well as ongoing protests are trickling down to local elections. He goes on to say those same issues will drive city residents to the polls and define the Richmond mayoral race, predicting incumbent Mayor Levar Stoney as the front-runner.

City residents have a little more than 40 days left to decide who will be their next mayor, as five hopefuls are eager to win the city’s top elected office.

On the November Ballot the following names will be listed for Richmond Mayor:

  • Levar Stoney
  • Kim Gray
  • Alexsis Rodgers
  • Justin Griffin
  • Tracey McLean

Meagher shared with 8News that the number of candidates is not surprising and there are some good challengers in the race, however Richmond current mayor Levar Stoney is favored to win.

“The only candidate that I think has a chance to win outright is Mayor Stoney,” said Meagher. “He’s the incumbent, he has a lot of money, the top democratic officials in the state have lined up behind him and those are big advantages.”

According to the latest campaign finance report, Mayor Stoney raised more than $250,000 in just the last two months, beating out all his opponents.

Meagher shared that Stoney may be praised for his handling of COVID-19 and construction of city schools, but his record in office could work against him. In his four years in office Stoney has led the disputed meals tax, failed Navy Hill Project, controversial Confederate Monument removal, but perhaps the biggest issue is his handling of recent protests and riots. 

“If Mayor Stoney loses this year it will probably be in response to the protests,” said Meagher.

Unrest in Richmond sent protesters to the streets demanding police reform and racial equality, however in some cases rioters hyjacked the cause looting businesses and destroying city property.

“The election this year has been defined by the Black Lives Matter protests and Mayor Stoney has not won a lot of fans in his response,” Meagher told 8News.

Some feel that Stoney did not do enough to stop the violence in the city, while others feel his leadership over police tactics was lacking–saying he did not crack down on “excessive force” measures like mass tear gassing and the use of rubber bullets.

Because of this, Meagher says it’s possible another candidate could win the election, the strongest challenger being Kim Gray.

Gray, former Richmond School Board Member and current City Council Member, has also raised a lot of money for her campaign and says her priority is safety and education.

“She’s on the City Council, she has name recognition and she has a base in her own district already, “said Meagher. “She is kind of a complicated figure. In some ways she is a conservative, she’s been defending property rights and criticizing protesters and in other ways a progressive.”

Meagher says the most progressive candidate is Alexsis Rodgers, Virginia state director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and community activist. According to Meagher, Rodgers is somewhat unknown in the Richmond political world, which can work to her advantage. She has picked up steam raising a significant amount of money and has prided her campaign on “leading systemic change” in light of the recent unrest.

Meagher say Rodgers has a fighting chance if she can get her progressive youth following to show up to the polls on November 3rd.

Another mayoral hopeful, business owner and attorney Justin Griffin. Griffin says he is running for mayor because “enough is enough” and he wants to get back to the issues and stay away from political distractions that are happening in the city now.

“He is very much of a long shot,” said Meagher. “He’s the only white candidate in the race and race does matter in these city elections. He also has this kind of efficiency message and that might resonate with a small percentage of voters.

The final candidate is Tracey McLean, a business owner in Richmond, who believes it’s time to change the narrative. McLean has raised nearly $400 and has not reported any donations.

Meagher predicts that McLean won’t ‘make much of a dent’. He says her intentions are genuine, but she has not gained enough traction in the race.

The mayoral race is about winning the majority of nine districts, not winning the majority of the vote city-wide.

Overall, Meagher says incumbent Mayor Stoney is favored to win and if he doesn’t there will likely be a run-off election in December.

All five hopefuls will be center stage on Thursday, Sept 24, at Virginia Union University for the 2020 Mayoral Debate.

The discussion will be moderated by former Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder and 8News Anchor Juan Conde.

The debate will air at 5 p.m. on-air and online at wric.com

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