Mayor's Race: Dwight Jones Hires Big Hitter; Pantele Petition Circulates 

"It's time," Richmond City Council President Bill Pantele tells supporters in an invitation he sent out for a private fundraising reception at the end of the month.

Although he stops inches short of announcing his candidacy for mayor, he does say it's time for the city to "move on," "to come together" and "to restore civic pride in Richmond." Pantele declines to say whether he's officially in the race for mayor, but petitions for his candidacy were being circulated at an April 24 meeting of the Richmond City Democrats Committee. He's all but in, just not officially, sources say.

Meanwhile, mayoral hopeful Delegate Dwight C. Jones is not just in, he's hired a fundraising heavy-hitter to raise big money for his campaign.

Jones has hired Matthew Felan, who serves as executive director of Gov. Tim Kaine's Moving Virginia Forward political action committee and as a deputy finance director on Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. While working for Kaine during the 2005 election, he helped raise $23.3 million statewide.

Most party operatives are tied up with Clinton's, Sen. Barack Obama's or Mark Warner's campaign and their crisscrossing allegiances prevent them from discussing Felan's fundraising prowess publicly, but "dynamo" and "superstar" are among the off-the-record adjectives offered.

State Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, says a big-league staffer is a good start, but it isn't everything.

"I think it means that Delegate Jones is serious about raising money," McEachin says, but he warns that a shoe-leather campaign still counts. "He's done this long enough to know that regardless who he hires, it's going to take a lot of work from him."

Helping with that work will be campaign manager Kevin O'Holleran, 26. O'Holleran worked for Tim Kaine in 2005. In 2006 he ran the special election in Northern Virginia that successfully handed the Democrats a seat that had been vacated by a Republican who left to join the attorney general's staff. He managed congressional races in Maryland, Iowa and his native Illinois that fall and has been with the Senate Democratic Caucus since.

So far, Jones shares the official field with Paul Goldman, longtime aide to Mayor L. Douglas Wilder, architect Lawrence Williams and Donnie "Dirtwoman" Corker. Mayor Wilder has yet to announce whether he plans to seek a second term.

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