By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
For the next two months, candidates running for mayor, city council and school board will be waging campaigns throughout Hampton Roads.
Most candidates seeking to get their names on the May 3 ballot collected the required number of signatures to file paper work by the deadline.
For the first time in seven decades, the city of Norfolk will allow the voters to elect members of the school board. In 2014, voters approved a referendum to allow residents to select members of a seven-member board using the ward-based system that is used to elect council.
School board members will be elected from each of the city’s seven wards.
On May 3, voters will be filling the seats for school board based on Superwards 6 and 7 which represent two halves of the city’s political geography. Residents of Superward 6 are majority White, and Superward 7 residents are mostly African-American to assure fair racial representation on the board.
In Ward 6, the current Vice-Chair of the School Board, Dr. Noelle Gabriel, will be running against Carter C. Smith.
Smith has children in an elementary, middle and high school in Norfolk. A native of Stafford, Virginia, he is a co-owner of a medical safety equipment company.
Rodney Jordan, who is the current Chair of the Norfolk School Board, is running unopposed in Ward 7.
Also, in Norfolk, for the first time in 30 years, Paul Fraim will not be on the ballot running for a council slot for Mayor. Fraim announced his retirement from politics last fall. Three candidates are running to replace Fraim, who has held the city’s top political office since 1994.
Norfolk Sheriff Robert McCabe, current Councilman Andy A. Protogyrou and businessman and State Senator Kenneth C. Alexander are running to become the city’s next mayor.
If Alexander wins, he will become the first African-American to be mayor in the city.
Norfolk and Virginia Beach are the only two major cities in Hampton Roads which have not elected an African-American as Mayor.
The city’s two Superward seats for council are being contested on May 3. Sixth Ward Council incumbent Barclay Winn, who was first elected to council in 2000, is seeking re-election and has two challengers.
Andria McClellan, who sits on the city’s Planning Commission, and former Norfolk School Board member Warren A. Steward are trying to unseat Winn.
Seventh Ward incumbent Angelia Williams-Graves, Vice Mayor since 2014, has sat on council since 2010.
She is seeking a new term and is being challenged by Rev. Kendrick Turner, who moved from Newport News to seek a seat on the Norfolk Council. Also Harry D. Candela, another political newcomer, is running.
In Chesapeake, incumbent Mayor Alan Krasnoff, first elected mayor in 2008, will be running unopposed in the upcoming election in early May.
There are three open seats on city council and six people are seeking to be among the top three candidates to acquire enough votes to sit in one of them. Current council incumbents Robert Ike, Rick West and Deborah Ritter are seeking to hold on to their respective seats on council.
There are three challengers: Dwight Parker, who is Black and served on council for 15 years; Gene Waters, who served four years on council (2004-2008); and David Washington, who is African-American and is a political newcomer.
Currently there is only one African-American on the Chesapeake City Council; Dr. Ella Ward, who is also running for the 4th District U.S. Congress seat.
Under the rules of the at-large system of electing council in Chesapeake, the candidates receiving the top three percentage of votes win a seat on council.
Samuel L. Boone, Jr., C. Jeff Bunn, Thomas L. Mercer Sr., Donna L. Parker and Victoria L. Profitt are seeking seats on school board this spring.
In Franklin, two sitting councilmen are seeking to replace Raystine Johnson Ashburn as mayor, now that she has chosen not to run for another turn.
Ashburn was the first African-American and woman elected mayor in this majority Black city.
Fourth Ward incumbent Greg McLemore and Ward 6 incumbent Frank Rabil are running to replace Ashburn. Both are in the middle of their current terms in office which will end in 2018.
Franklin has a 4-3 Black majority on council and the Black community’s leadership wants to retain it. But that may be complicated with McLemore running. Throughout his career on council he has been at odds with his colleagues on council and even residents of his ward and other parts of the city are concerned about his temperament to be mayor.
Kenneth Sanford, a veteran, withdrew from the mayor’s race. A friend of Sanford said that he left the race, hoping to assure the election of McLemore and avoid splitting the Black vote on election day in early May.
The larger the turnout, the greater chance the Ward 3 incumbent has of winning. Another factor is who will be appointed to replace either Rabil or McLemore if indeed one of them should ascend to the mayor’s job.
Incumbents in Franklin Council Wards 1, 2 and 4 are seeking reelection. Barry Cheatham and Benny Burgess, are seeking to retain their seats in the 1st and 2nd Wards respectively and doing so unopposed.
African-American Mona Murphy, who represents the 4th Ward, is being challenged by businessman and activist Linwood Johnson. Johnson was the leader of the coalition of Black residents seeking to get the council to address the high electric bills from the city-owned utility.
On The Peninsula
On the Peninsula. Newport News Mayor McKinley Price is seeking another term unopposed. African-American, he is the leader of a council which has a 4-3 Black majority.
There are three ward seats up for election and the incumbents have challengers.
Ralph Coleman is being challenged again by Marcellus Harris, Jr. in the Northern District.
Patricia Woodbury is being challenged by Mike Mullins in the Central District.
Tina Vick, the incumbent in the South District, is being challenged by Nichole Almond Joy and Akin Muhammad.
In Hampton incumbent Mayor George Wallace, who is Black, is being challenged by fellow council member Donnie R. Tuck. The Hampton Council has a 4-3 Black majority.
For the first time, African-American men will be running for mayor in five Hampton Roads cities.
Senator Kenneth Alexander is running for mayor of Norfolk, which along with Virginia Beach has not elected a Black person to that post.
In November, incumbent Mayor Kenneth Wright has three challengers seeking to unseat him during the General Election which will take place in November.
Former City Manager John Rowe, who was fired by the city council several months ago, will be running. Also, running are businessman Shannon Glover, who moved from Suffolk to seek the job, and Kouakou Ansumane Boudjiho-Bey.
When Rowe announced his intention to run, former Portsmouth Sheriff Gary Waters withdrew from the race
Franklin Council member Greg McLemore is running a second time for mayor in that city.
McKinley Price is running for another term in Newport News and incumbents George Wallace and councilman Donnie Tuck are running for mayor in Hampton.