Virginia Beach voters will vote on candidates for City Council in six seats open for election, including two at-large ones. Voters can vote for one candidate in their boroughs and for two at-large candidates on November 6.
Black political and civic leaders are paying close attention to the race for the two at-large seats.
Six candidates are seeking those two seats and two of them are African-Americans: former NFL player Aaron Rouse and Businesswoman Linda Bright.
The two candidates receiving the two highest number of at-large votes will secure the two seats. So a huge turnout of Black voters, specifically and supportive White voters, from all sections of the city, are needed for one or both of the Black candidates to secure one or both of the seats.
But there is concern among Black political activists and civic leaders that with two Black candidates competing for the two seats against four Whites, African-Americans may ruin a chance to gain a seat on the council.
John Moss is a Council incumbent who is seeking re-election to one of those at-large seats.
According to the City Registrar’s office, voters have the right to use the “Pick Two” option, allowing them to vote for two of the six at-large candidates.
According to various Black civic and political activists in the city who may be alerting and educating Blacks and other supportive constituencies, casting a vote for one or both of the Black at-large candidates would improve their chances of securing a seat on the city’s council.
Sabrina Wooten, who is African-American, is running for the Centerville District seat against two other candidates: Eric V. Wray and C. Conrad Schesventer II.
Wooten was born in Stuttgart, Germany and grew up in a military family in Hampton Roads. She attended ODU and received a Masters from Regent. She works for a local non-profit.
Although this is her first venture running for political office, she has been involved as Vice-Chair of the Minority Business Council in Virginia Beach and Chair of the Outreach Committee for the Minority Business Council.
Since Virginia Beach was incorporated into a city, due to the merger of Princess Anne County and the tiny village of Virginia Beach, only three Blacks have been elected to the council. Currently, there are no African-Americans on the council.
Virginia Beach is the largest city in Virginia and the only city now which does not have an African-American on its main governing body.
John Perry was the first African-American elected in 1986 but lost his bid for reelection in 1990. Four years later, businesswoman Louisa Strayhorn won a seat on the panel and four years later she lost her bid for another term.
Dr. Amelia Ross-Hammond, a former NSU professor, was elected to council in 2012 and lost her bid for reelection four years later.
Civic, religious and civil rights leaders say the city’s current system of electing council using single-member boroughs or districts and at-large voting is a deterrent to Blacks and others in securing the support they need consistently to win a seat on the council.
Further, Black candidates running in one of the districts can receive the votes from that district and voters in other parts of the city. If voters outside of the district do not favor a minority candidate, they could have enough votes to deny a minority candidate victory, even though the voters in that specific district may favor that Black candidate.
Blacks and even many conservative Whites complain the system marginalizes their political strength and deters them from electing candidates of their choice.
Portsmouth City Council
The Portsmouth council race is a bit more complicated, as incumbent Mark Whitaker, recently tried and convicted of three felony forgery charges involving a loan owned by the church he pastors has been disqualified from running.
According to state law, a certified felon cannot serve on the council. His name is still on the ballot. But a notice on the city website Saturday, Oct. 6 read: “Mark M. Whitaker is no longer a qualified candidate for Member, City Council. The ballots had been printed when the office received notice of his disqualification. His name, therefore, still appears on the ballot. “
Whitaker said that he wanted to apply to have his rights restored in time for the Nov. 6 election. But according to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office, even if he did apply to have his rights restored, it would not be in time to qualify for the election.
Whitaker’s name has been removed from the list of council members.
The mayor and five members of council are the only ones remaining. There are three seats opening up this year. Persons receiving the top three counts will be seated.
Two seats on council are being contested this year: Mark A. Geduldig-Yatrofsky, Paul J. Battle, Shannon E. Glover, William E. “Bill” Moody, Jr., (incumbent) Pamela J. Phillips, Stephanie C. “Cathy” Revell and Deborah Katasha Mizelle.
By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide