Someone We Respect: Why Theresa Kennedy Backs Stoney

We asked people whose opinions we respect to tell us why they’re voting for whom they’re voting.

First, let me say that I love this city. I moved to Richmond in 2003, just after turning 24, and immediately felt like it was my home. I became an adult here (as, upon reflection, I was decidedly not an adult at 24), met and married my husband here, made many of my best friendships here, and had my children here. I am committed to the city of Richmond, to raising my family here, and to being a part of its vibrant community.

And that’s why this year’s mayoral election is so important to me. Because I am entrenched in this city, I want the best leader possible for it. I want a leader who cares about things like schools—about integrating them (for REAL this time) and making sure every kid at least gets an opportunity at a fair shot.

And I want a leader who wants to actually take on City Hall and make it a vibrant, forward-leaning, agile organization, because right now it’s at least 20 years behind in both technology and process, which makes execution poor (or unreliable at best). Getting personal property tax bills marked as “past due” after never receiving a “pay by” bill gets really frustrating year after year. And it’s absolutely ridiculous that a city that wants to attract businesses takes an inordinate amount of time to issue business permits.

I want a leader who won’t just invest in making Richmond a great place to visit (because festivals! Races! Restaurants! Events!) but will invest in ensuring that Richmond is a great place to LIVE and raise families—for every resident, not just for the wealthiest ones.

And I believe the leader that can deliver on all of these goals is Levar Stoney. Hs vision for the city is lockstep with my hopes for it. And I get it—he’s young. He’s two years younger than me, a fact that cut me deep when I first learned it (my late thirties are hitting me hard). And he’s arguably less experienced than someone with 40 years of work experience. But he’s smart, forward-thinking, has lots of support, and is driven.

Yes, he’s going places; yes, he has a long career ahead of him—this does not mean he’s not right for Richmond right now. It means that, because he has the longterm health of this city in mind, he’s perfect for Richmond right now. He doesn’t just want to make the city better for the next few years of his administration—he wants to set the foundation to take this city into the future. He wants to do what I wish leaders had been able to do 30 or 40 years ago.

You’re right. I’ve gulped down the Levar Stoney Kool-Aid. I am totally on the Levar Stoney bus. I am riding this train to Election Day.

But here’s reality: none of this matters. Who you want to win most of all is meaningless. Because there is a huge wrench in this plan—Joe Morrissey is, by all accounts, leading in a scary number of districts.

Yes, that Joe Morrissey—the one who was disgraced in 2013 and forced to resign from state office for having sex with a 17 year old (he was 57 at the time).

Joe Morrissey, who moved to the city not because he loves it but because he wants to resuscitate his political career and reputation by becoming its mayor. Joe Morrissey the liar, who sent out a “Democratic Ballot” mailer to 30,000 city residents earlier this week, implying that he’s the Democratic Nominee for mayor (he’s not).

We cannot have this man leading our city. He’s not only disgusting, but he will set Richmond back in all of the growth it has experienced over the last two decades.

But here’s the rub: Richmond’s mayor isn’t elected by popular vote. Richmond’s mayor is elected by district—whomever can win five of Richmond’s nine voting districts wins, regardless of popular vote. If no one candidate achieves plurality in five districts, there is a run-off between the top two vote-getters.

What does this mean for Stoney? Well, based on the only recent scientific poll (released by the Richmond Chamber on October 15—results available here (PDF)), the city is thoroughly divided. Jack Berry leads in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th. Joe Morrissey leads in the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th. Stoney, however, is in second place in every district (with 38% of participants in the solidly undecided category and Stoney and Morrissey leading those who are undecided but leaning towards a candidate). This data points to Stoney being the only candidate who is attractive in all districts. The only candidate who can truly unite the city and the only candidate who can defeat Morrissey.

Berry is a well-respected, highly qualified, and committed public servant. I would not be upset to see him as mayor of our city—he clearly loves this city and has invested a great deal into it. He has lots of experience and a great business mind. This doesn’t, however, make him marketable to the city as a whole. It makes him relatable to businessmen and citizens with socio-economic advantages, but how can those who already feel like the city government has failed them trust someone who has never been in their shoes?

Stoney grew up without advantage. He understands what it’s like to want more for yourself and for your family. He can relate to those in the city who have limited faith in their city government’s ability to meet their needs. Yet, he’s also gained the trust of many powerful people—Terry McAuliffe tapped Stoney to be Secretary of the Commonwealth, despite being the youngest person to ever fill that position.

Joe Morrissey is vile and ill-suited for our city. However, he seems to be marketable to a large portion of our city. He’s well-known and his slogan is that he will fight for you—a very attractive proposition for a large portion of the city that feels (often rightly) to have been forgotten or ignored by City Hall.

In order to defeat Morrissey, we need a candidate who can relate to the residents who back Morrissey as well as a candidate who appeals to Berry backers. Stoney is a well-respected, highly qualified, and committed public servant who is relatable across the board. This makes him the smart choice—especially for anyone in a currently contentious district (FYI, districts 3, 5, and 7 are the battlegrounds).

Your vote is more than just who you want to win. Your vote is ensuring that the worst candidate doesn’t win by default. Choose wisely, my friend.