It doesn’t take Larry Sabato to tell you that the 2016 Richmond mayoral race will be one of the most hotly contested and wildly entertaining political spectacles that the Capital City has ever seen. Everyone’s ready for a change from the current administration, and with the election less than a year away, people seem primed to capitalize on Richmond’s state of mismanagement.
Now before I drop a coach Jon Gruden breakdown of the race, I’ll flat out say it: I operate in rumors, not facts. Tipsy bar conversations are my specialty.
There appear to be at least nine people running for mayor at last count — 10, if you include the guy who informed Style of his plans the other week on Twitter (good luck, @Ingoldformayor). Only one person has officially declared — City Council President Michelle Mosby. This will change very soon. Possibly before this column even goes to print.
Back to my outsider speculation. Some parts are even outright falsehoods, like the part about Nutzy smoking a cigarette in a trench coat, secretly accepting a briefcase in the City Hall parking deck. I mean, it could’ve happened.
Mismanagement aside, to say that Richmond is at a crossroad would be a gross overstatement. The city isn’t dying on the vine by any means. It’s actually quite vibrant. But there are issues: the Boulevard brouhaha, baseball, better transportation options, the upkeep of a rotting infrastructure and school system, the neglect of the East End, the need for a children’s hospital, the city bureaucracy’s inability to turn in reports on time, etc.
Two weeks ago Richmond magazine reported that former governor and Richmond mayor Doug Wilder could possibly be considering another run for City Hall. It seems highly unlikely, but if the indomitable Wilder has shown us anything over time, it’s that he’s capable of anything. Following this innocuous rumor, Gov. Wilder wrote an editorial in the Feb. 7 edition of The Richmond Times-Dispatch in which he blasted Mayor Dwight Jones and went on take credit for any successes touted by the Jones administration by saying that he laid the groundwork.
Last week, Style Editor-in-Chief Jason Roop correctly dubbed this an “egotorial.”
So the question remains: Is Wilder setting himself up for a run? Or is this a power move to set up his buddy, lawyer and former state delegate Joe Morrissey, by doing the legwork and attacking the soft underbelly of his predecessor?
It’s no secret that the colorful Morrissey is probably going to run for mayor. His eloquence and misdirection can make him difficult to read, but his ambition is obvious.
This interplay (and Morrissey alone) would be entertaining enough for the next nine months, but there are others who aren’t quashing rumors that they aspire to the throne. Many others.
Along with Mosby, there are Richmond City Councilmen Jon Baliles and Chris Hilbert, Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney, Richmond School Board Chairman Jeff M. Bourne, Venture Richmond Executive Director Jack Berry, architect and former city councilman Bruce Tyler, developer and Fan district contrarian Charlie Diradour, Dirt Woman, restaurant owner Jake Crocker, Heritage chef Joe Sparatta, the Sultan of Scott’s Addition Trevor Dickerson, 8 News anchor Juan Conde, NBC-12 anchor and Facebook provocateur Curt “Thirsty Jump-offs” Autry, Midlothian-raised ginger radio host Melissa Chase and the Flying Squirrels’ giant acorn mascot, Zinger.
The list is endless and stacked with talent (plus a few dreamers).
Again, some (OK, most) of these are based on rumors (that I just started).
So who will emerge from the pack? Baliles immediately comes to mind. Son of former Gov. Gerald Baliles, owner of immaculate Kennedy-esqe politician hair. Has taken a strong stance against the current administration, for which he previously worked.
Stoney is another intriguing pick. He’s tight with Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a dignitary of some note. Also, Levar is 34, which is probably way too young to be mayor, but that’s why I like him. We can easily transition from a discussion on School Board leadership into how hot Noah-O’s latest single is.
Zinger the Acorn is another. The liberal media has been calling for a diversification in local government, and nothing is more diverse than a giant acorn man.
Hilbert, Mosby and Berry also stand out.
The only certainty is that between now and November, local politics will get extremely entertaining. There really isn’t a better time to get more civically engaged, even if that just means making snarky comments on Twitter about the candidates. S
Jack Lauterback also is co-host of “Mornings with Melissa and Jack” on 103.7 Play weekdays from 6-9. Connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at jackgoesforth.
Editor's note: This story reflects a change to the print version, correcting Bruce Tyler's occupation.