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Then-candidate Melvin Willis, right, fist-bumps a party attendee. Willis came in first place in Tuesday night’s council race, with 15 percent of the vote. Photograph by Abner Hauge.

RPA celebrates city council wins on election night

on November 10, 2016

While progressive forces reeled nationwide from the election of Donald J. Trump, the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) had a banner day at the polls earlier this week.

At a campaign party at RPA headquarters at the Bobby Bowen Progressive Center, members and friends largely ignored the national election results as they ate and drank to soul and pop music—and occasionally cheered as local results flashed on a projector at the end of the hall.

At the end of the party, some even danced and cheered—as few progressives across the nation likely did that night.

RPA candidates Melvin Willis and Ben Choi came in first and second respectively in a race for three open City Council seats. Willis received slightly over 15 percent of the vote while Choi received 13.5 percent. A win by either candidate would have meant an RPA majority on the City Council.

“I’ve learned a lot” from the campaign, said Choi. “Basically we’re seeing the democratic process working and once again it’s important to have rapprochement and work together.”

Willis said that his and Choi’s victory is “a chance to do everything we can to represent people in Richmond.”

“It’s time to get to work!” Choi said.

Richmond voters also approved Measure L, the rent control initiative which was backed by the RPA and which many prominent RPA members, including Choi and Willis, helped organize and collect signatures for. The measure passed with 64 percent of voters in favor of it.

Zak Wear, RPA Steering Committee member and head of Fair and Affordable Richmond, the main organization that promoted the measure, was pleased with the results.

“It’s a sigh of relief to thousands of renters, some of whom have called Richmond home for more than a generation,” Wear said.

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