Eighteen candidates have thrown in their hats to fill the vacant seat on the Richmond City Council. The position, which was made vacant by former councilmember Tom Butt’s ascent to Mayor, has been widely regarded as pivotal for the city’s future. The 18 candidates present strong contenders with a diversity of backgrounds and strong experiences which qualify them for the position.
Six of the 18 candidates have previously run for City Council seats. Dameion King and Anthony Creer were both contenders in last year’s election. Uche Uwahemu, also on the list, ran for mayor. In the past, Rhonda Harris and Marilyn Langlois, fellow candidates for the vacant seat, also put in their bids for council seats.
Jim Rogers, who lost a reëlection campaign this past year, has also submitted an application. In recent years Rogers was credited for working well with fellow city council colleagues, and he was pivotal in leading the fight to pass Measure U, a measure which will help fund the betterment of the city’s roads, among other endeavors.
Also running is former two-term Mayor Rosemary Corbin, whom also served on the City Council twice in the past.
Ten of the 11 remaining candidates can be divided between local community activists and individuals who are involved in the city in an official capacity.
Both Ben Choi and Sheryl Lane have been involved with the city’s Planning Commission. Choi served for five years, and Lane is the Commission’s current chair. Similarly, Kathryn (Kate) Sibley served two terms on the Richmond Art & Culture Commission before becoming a member of the Public Art Advisory Committee. Candidate David Schoenthal is president of the Point Richmond Business Association and is a member of the Richmond Economic Development Commission. Otheree Christian is currently President of the Iron Triangle Neighborhood Council and is looking to bring his education in political science to the Council.
Five candidates are on the community activist side. Vinay Pimplé, an attorney with a degree from UC Berkeley, is involved in Richmond Trees, an organization to plant trees around the city, and he is also a mentor of at risk youth. Samuel Pooler is a recent transplant to Richmond interested in improving the city’s economy.
Candidate Claudia Jimenez, an immigrant, stands to represent the city’s growing immigrant population. Raquel Donoso, a non-profit executive, stands to bring environmental expertise to the council. Lastly, Oscar Garcia, who was born and raised in the Iron Triangle, has a vested interested in representing the city’s Latino population.
The final candidate for the vacant seat, Jeff Lee, is listed on the city’s website, but at the time of publication there no candidate was statement available.
Each of these candidates will be given the opportunity to speak before the council at a special meeting next Tuesday, February 10th. Four votes are required from the council to elect a candidate, and the current council members have 60 days to do so from when the seat was declared vacant at the January 20th City Council meeting. If the council cannot rally four votes behind any one candidate, the seat will be up for a general election in November. Until then, it looks like next Tuesday is the Council’s best shot at filling the council seat.
Whoever fills this seat will have a crucial role in the newly constituted council. A majority of four votes is required for the most decisive actions by the council, and the winning candidate may have the sway to determine how these votes turn out.
Three Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) councilmembers — Jovanka Beckles, Eduardo Martinez, and Gayle McLaughlin — won seats in November’s election, and another RPA candidate on the council would be enough to tip the governing body into its most progressive constitution to date. Alternatively, the seat could still prove a toss-up if a more moderate candidate wins the seat.
With 18 candidates running for the seat — 8 more than the last time the Richmond City Council had a vacancy in 2012 — it will be difficult for any one candidate to get four votes. The special meeting on Tuesday will give these candidates an opportunity to show their worth, but it by no means guarantees that anyone will be selected that evening to fill the vacant seat.