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Credit: Richmond Progressive Alliance

Candidates backed by the Richmond Progressive Alliance sweep City Council elections

on November 6, 2020

The three candidates backed by the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) won each of their races for Richmond City Council.

The candidates, Claudia Jimenez, Gayle McLaughlin and Melvin Willis, also known as “Team Richmond” will join RPA backed sitting council member, Eduardo Martinez, in January, ushering in a new era of a progressive city council.

Willis won 56% of the vote, winning a third consecutive term to District 1, while Thompson, a businesswoman, received  43% of the vote. 

Willis wants to spend the next two years working with the community to address concerns brought up during this election season by residents in his district.

“A lot of it has been figuring out how we best addressed illegal dumping and even human trafficking that’s happening in the Twenty Third Street neighborhood,” said Willis. 

During the campaign, Willis says he witnessed pride in the city of Richmond, but also “a lot of challenges and a hope to see something different.”

Gayle McLaughlin, former mayor of Richmond and ex-council member, won with 51% of the vote, against candidates Ahmad Anderson, Mike Vasilas and Najari Smith in District 5. 

“We need to address real affordable housing and the situation with so many unhoused people in Richmond,” said McLaughlin, who ran on a platform of addressing real affordable housing and the unhoused population living in the streets of Richmond.

Anderson, who ran against McLaughlin, worries that RPA’s sweep will lead to a city council that isn’t able to come together and able to put the needs of the people of Richmond, before personal politics. 

“I’m not sure there’s a lot to be shown for where the [RPA] were able to be collaborative and to be the conduit to bring people together in an engaging way,” said Ahmad. “That’s not a guy who just lost, that’s just the history.” 

McLaughlin said that this progressive win in Richmond is backed by many grassroots organizations in the community. “I want to make it clear that the progressive movement in Richmond is bigger than the RPA,” said McLaughlin.

Stil Ahmad is cautious about the ability of the RPA to work across the aisle.“Based on past political positions or platforms of the RPA, it has not really been in favor of business which supports jobs and great economic health,” said Anderson. 

In District 6 community organizer Claudia Jimenez won 52% of the vote to beat ex-council member Vinay Pimple and La’Tanya Dandie. Jimenez is a first-time candidate to the city council but has been a community organizer for the last 10 years and worked with numerous grassroots organizations. 

And although she too was endorsed by the RPA, Jimenez says that her campaign had very little to do with RPA and rather focused on bringing different groups together for the success of Richmond. 

“I had to fight all the way, this narrative that because I was with RPA I don’t have my own voice and I was a puppet,” said Jimenez. 

When it comes to the future of Richmond, Ahmad hopes that the city and its council continue to be transparent to residents about financial matters and other important issues “by holding community forums and listening to the community actively.” 

McLaughlin on the other hand is hopeful for the future Richmond. “We’re going to be working in Richmond and connecting with other cities and showcasing the way to a better state and a better nation as a whole.”

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