Twelve people have submitted their names for consideration by the Richmond City Council to fill the vacant seat left open when councilmember-elect Gary Bell—who is in a coma after suffering a bacterial sinus infections—was unable to be sworn in earlier this month. Among the twelve are former councilmembers, unsuccessful candidates from November’s race and a handful of new-to-the-scene political hopefuls.
On Monday, February 4, the public and the council will have a chance to hear from each of the applicants and residents, who will be invited to provide input to the council on who—if anyone—they think should be appointed. The following night, councilmembers will vote on each of the applicants, and if anyone receives a majority he or she will take the open seat.
Eduardo Martinez, a member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance who finished behind Bell in November’s election, is the favorite going into the race. He has the public support of fellow RPA associates Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and councilmember Jovanka Beckles, along with councilmember Tom Butt.
Councilmembers Nat Bates and Corky Booze have emphatically stated throughout the last few weeks that they feel the city should hold a special election to fill the vacancy.
The swing vote for Martinez appears to be councilmember Jim Rogers. Rogers has remained quiet about whom, if anyone, he’ll vote for next week.
Should the council fail to settle on one of the candidates, Richmond will have to hold a special election. During the city council meeting last week, McLaughlin said a special election would most likely be held on June 6, in combination with the West Contra Costa Unified School District’s special election.
Below is a brief biography of each of the applicants.
Ali-Kinney ran for city council in the last election, receiving 2.8 percent of the vote. He is an active participant at city council meetings, and passionate about Native American rights. According to his candidate statement submitted this week, he would focus on improving Richmond’s economy and crime: “We need to take immediate action to improve our unemployment and under-employment rates, economic development, reduce crime including youth violence, and improve our image while avoiding tax burdens.”
Stann Cortez, 33
According to his candidate statement, Cortez graduated from San Francisco State University with degrees in Economics and Business Management, experience that gives him “a strong foundation to help rebuild our city.” He writes that he wants to “create a better and sustainable Richmond so that it will become a prosperous and vibrant city that people will enjoy and admire.”
Don Gosney, 58
Scholarship program administrator for the Ivy League Connection and retired steamfitter
Gosney is a community activist and regular speaker at city council meetings at which he has voiced opposition to the Richmond Progressive Alliance’s proposals and candidates. According to his candidate statement, if elected he’ll seek balance: “That means there has to be a balance between business and the environment; between the 1% and the 99%; between the need for jobs and our rights to a safe place to live and work.”
Eduardo Martinez, 63
Martinez finished behind Gary Bell in the last election by 518 votes; he received 14.4 percent of the total vote. Three of the sitting councilmembers—McLaughlin, Beckles and Butt—have said they will vote for him. Martinez is an active member in the community and Richmond Progressive Alliance; he did not accept any corporate donations during the last election and according to his candidate statement submitted this week he would focus on “retention and expansion of local businesses, developing a dialogue to support jobs and the economy.” Martinez said throughout the last campaign that as a former teacher, he is especially interested in helping Richmond’s children succeed.
John Marquez, 73
Vice President Contra Costa Community College District Board of Trustees, retired State Deputy Labor Commissioner, retired community college professor
Marquez is a former city council member, who spent eighteen years on the council—beginning in 1985—before losing his re-election campaign in 2008. According to Marqeuz’ candidate statement he helped bring “good paying jobs to Richmond through good projects like Target stores, Civic Center and City Hall Renovations.”
Jael P. Myrick, 27
Senior field representative for Assemblymember Nancy Skinner
Myrick first ran for city council last year and finished with just over 5 percent of the vote. He ran on a platform largely aimed at helping Richmond’s young people and co-founded a non-profit six years ago—Standing To Represent Our Next Generation—to involve them in the political process.
Vinay Pimple, 45
Small business owner, writes software for the blind
Pimple has a law degree from UC Berkeley and is interested in helping small business owners and young people in Richmond, according to the candidate statement.
Bea Roberson, 69
Retired construction accountant
Roberson ran for city council in the last election. She came in sixth place, receiving just shy of 7.5 percent of the vote. She is a very active community member, volunteering for numerous Richmond-based non-profits and acting as chair of the police commission. Roberson’s campaign was heavily funded by the Chevron-funded group, Moving Forward, and according to her campaign statement she remains passionate about supporting Richmond businesses: “A thriving business community broadens our tax base bringing good paying jobs (with benefits) and allows us to fund our libraries, rec centers, police and fire departments.”
Kathleen Sullivan, 57
Innovation Director at Community One World Foundation
Sullivan is longtime community activist who was recently endorsed by the county’s Black American Political Action Committee (BAPAC). She is President of the Richmond/Contra Costa Chapter of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), whose mission is to involve African American women in politics through education and training. According to her candidate statement, Sullivan is committed to “attracting new businesses and expanding job opportunities,” along with “reducing violent crime,” and “expanding community resources.”
Tony Thurmond, 44
Thurmond was a councilmember from 2005 through 2008. In 2008, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for California State Assembly to represent District 14, which covers Richmond, coming in second to Nancy Skinner with 25 percent of the vote. In his statement Thurmond appeals to the council, saying that his experience as a West Contra Costa County Unified School District Trustee and manager of non-profit programs “to support youth, the disabled, education, and community improvement,” qualify him for the seat.
Eleanor Thompson, age not provided
Director of non-profit organization, Social Progress Inc.
Thompson is a youth advocate in the Iron Triangle. She earned seven percent of the vote in the last election, and according to her current candidate statement, her experience as a volunteer, community police commissioner and president of the Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council qualifies her to provide “unique approaches for improving education, health services and crime prevention.”
Mark Wassberg, 56
Wassberg received two percent of the vote in the last election. He is an active speaker at city council meetings and, according to his current candidate statement, is an “activist to end the violence since 2004, and standing up for all American citizen’s constitution rights.”
To read more about each of the candidates, view their unabridged candidate statements.