Pastors Drafting Hicks to Unseat Mayor Wilder 

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Floods are out of play, but God's earthly emissaries say Richmond government is ripe for a righteous purging.

Fed up with the acrimony and stagnation they say is endemic to the administration of Mayor L. Douglas Wilder, a group of 24 area clergy members want to draft former Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney David Hicks to run for Wilder's seat.

"If David is interested, they want to draft him," the Rev. Joe Ellison says. A smaller group of pastors approached him to organize a petition drive to place Hicks on the ballot, he says: "They really believe he could take Wilder in this climate."

Ellison declined to identify the pastors participating in the petition drive, but says they approached him through his position as executive director of Pastors for Conservative Values, a coalition of more than 200 statewide church leaders.

Some of the clergy interested in unseating Wilder lead congregations of 400 to 1,000 members, Ellison says, representing both predominantly black and white congregations and various mainstream denominations. "There is a grassroots swelling in the clergy," he says. "They're tired of the fighting."

Hicks says he's flattered.

"Lord, I've got [former Richmond mayor] Roy West and I've got 24 ministers," Hicks says, referring to West's comments to Style that he'd like to see Hicks or Virginia Secretary of Administration Viola Baskerville run against Wilder.

Though he voiced a willingness to run for mayor, Hicks expressed reservations about entering a ring where Wilder is waiting with gloves on. But Hicks also says he shares the frustrations of the clergy who want him on the ballot.

"A year ago it was an easy call," Hicks says. As recently as four months ago, before the birth of his third son, Hicks says he'd have turned down any suggestion to run. But he says he's frustrated with "the direction of the city, especially as regards our young people. … I can't say I'm excited about raising another son here."

Hicks says he's not ready to commit to running, but it may not take much of a breeze to push him into the race.

"I supported the change to elected mayor, and I supported Doug Wilder, but this imperial approach is not what's going to move us forward," Hicks says. "It's certainly something to consider."

Ellison says he hopes that the possibility of being on the ballot with an incumbent Wilder doesn't cause Hicks to back away: "If Wilder runs or not, we want David to run," he says. "We think it would be a tough battle." S

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