To the races: Dems file for contested Charlottesville City Council primary

Kristin Szakos. Photo: Ashley Twiggs.

With last Thursday’s filing deadline behind us, the slate of candidates for the June 11 Democratic primary race for Charlottesville City Council is set. Only one incumbent is running in a five-way campaign for two open seats—Dave Norris will not run again—so Council is guaranteed to see some new blood next year, and changes to the way Dems are selecting candidates have injected a little more uncertainty into the race, said Charlottesville Democratic Party Co-chair Jim Nix.

The party has traditionally chosen candidates by caucus, or, more recently, by a so-called “firehouse primary,” where voting takes place at a central location. This time, voters will cast local ballots at their regular precinct polling places. Nix said it’s opened the field somewhat: “When it’s a primary run by the party, we have some control over who runs,” he said. “In a primary like this, we have absolutely no control. All they have to do is get the 125 signatures and the other paperwork in.”

No Republicans have publicly announced intentions to run, but the local party is expected to name at least two candidates at an April 27 mass meeting. In the meantime, here’s the Democratic ticket:

Kristin Szakos. Photo: Ashley Twiggs.

The incumbent crusader. Kristin Szakos, 53, and the only incumbent on the ballot, was first to announce a run. Since her first successful run in 2009, she’s served on the Metropolitan Planning Organization and as a member of the Planning and Coordination Council, and is now the city’s vice-mayor. She is an author and editor, and her husband, Joe Szakos, is the executive director of Virginia Organizing. She’s emphasized the need to give citizens a voice in local government, and has said she wants to focus on housing needs and bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

Wes Bellamy. Photo: John Robinson.The activist. Wes Bellamy, 26, is a computer science teacher at Albemarle High School, co-founder of youth empowerment group HYPE (Helping Young People Evolve), and a member of the African American Teaching Fellows. An Atlanta native, Bellamy moved to the area to take a job with the National Ground Intelligence Center in 2010, but left that career to become an educator. He has worked closely with the city’s Public Housing Authority of Residents, just as departing City Councilor Dave Norris has done, and said he wants to replace Norris as a voice for those living in public housing.

Adam Lees. Photo courtesy Adam Lees and UVA.The student. Adam Lees, 24, is a Florida native pursuing a Master’s degree in foreign affairs from UVA. He is a teaching assistant in the Department of Politics and serves as the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ representative to the University’s Student Council. Lees has said he’s running in the hope that he can help foster a better relationship between University and city.

Melvin Grady. Photo courtesy Melvin Grady.The teacher. Melvin Grady, 44, grew up in Charlottesville, got a degree from UVA, and now teaches middle school algebra in the same district he graduated from. Grady, whose uncle Charles Barbour was the city’s first black councilor and mayor, says he wants to focus on early childhood education and affordable housing.

Bob Fenwick. File photo.The independent. Bob Fenwick, 68, made unsuccessful runs for City Council in 2009 and 2011, when he came in third—both times as an independent. This time, he’s thrown his lot in with the Democrats, because, he said, he has a lot of Democratic supporters and the issues he cares about most are “Democratic issues”: protecting public safety, supporting small business, and limiting new taxes and fees.

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