City of Portsmouth

City of Portsmouth

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Election Day is Tuesday, November 3rd

The Virginia Progressive Voters Guide compiles the information that allows you to make informed decisions about the races on your ballot, based on your values. All research in this guide was conducted in August of 2020. Please share this guide with your friends and family.

Federal

President and Vice President

  • Our country is facing several unprecedented crises all at once. The COVID-19 pandemic, police brutality, and racism are just the tip of the iceberg of the problems we need to tackle head-on. The 2020 Presidential race comes at a defining moment in our history, and this is a pivotal election that will decide the fate of America for generations to come.

    Joe Biden was the 47th Vice President of the United States, serving in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2017. He represented the state of Delaware in the U.S. Senate from 1973 to 2009. During his time with the Obama administration, he was an influential adviser to the President, helping usher in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a monumental reform to America’s healthcare system where 20 million Americans gained health coverage. Biden also oversaw infrastructure spending under Obama’s stimulus package response to the 2008 recession and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

    If elected President, Biden has pledged to codify Roe V. Wade, restore federal funding to Planned Parenthood, and repeal the Hyde Amendment. His response to the coronavirus pandemic involves widespread, free testing, and the distribution of a vaccine with no out-of-pocket costs. Biden wants to make affordable healthcare available to more Americans by strengthening the ACA and offering a public option for health coverage. Biden believes that gun violence is a public health crisis and plans to ban the manufacture and sale of assault rifles and high capacity magazines, close loopholes that allow guns to get in the wrong hands, require background checks for gun sales, and institute red flag laws.

    Biden’s platform to address climate change involves embracing central components of the Green New Deal––getting the world to net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050 and aligning environmental and economic policies. He announced a $2 trillion plan to invest in clean energy while creating economic opportunity and strengthening infrastructure.

    Biden also pledged to restore the Voting Rights Act. As a U.S. Senator in 2006, Biden co-sponsored legislation to renew key sections of the Voting Rights Act. It was signed by then President George W. Bush.

    Biden plans to address economic inequality by increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, increasing affordable housing, ending discrimination in the housing market, investing in transportation, protecting tenants’ rights, boosting the power of unions and workers’ rights to collectively bargain, and checking corporate power over workers.

    Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States, is the incumbent and Republican nominee. He won the 2016 election by capturing a majority of votes in the electoral college votes while losing the popular vote by 3 million votes. In 2020, Trump was impeached for requesting foreign assistance in the 2016 election. During his time in office, he attacked affordable healthcare by attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, overhauled the U.S. tax system to benefit the richest one percent of Americans and wealthy corporations, and took away Title IX funding for Planned Parenthood. He appointed conservative judges to the judiciary who are hostile to abortion rights, denied amnesty to thousands of immigrants fleeing violence from Central America, attempted to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protected young immigrants from deportation, sided with racists during times of racial upheaval in our nation, and completely botched the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Due to Trump’s racism, attacks on immigrants, attempts to take away healthcare, and proven inability to lead our nation, Joe Biden is the clear progressive choice for the 2020 Presidential election.

    Joseph Biden

    Our country is facing several unprecedented crises all at once. The COVID-19 pandemic, police brutality, and racism are just the tip of the iceberg of the problems we need to tackle head-on.

    Last updated: 2020-10-29
  • Senator Kamala Harris is the first Black woman and South Asian American woman to be nominated for Vice President of the United States by a major party. As the daughter of immigrants, Harris’s groundbreaking nomination is a win for people of color. She was elected to represent California in the U.S. Senate in 2016, before that she was Attorney General of California. As a Senator, Harris serves on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on the Budget.

    During her time in the Senate, Harris became known for grilling Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Attorney General William Barr during their confirmation hearings. 

    Harris blames the Trump administration for the severity of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. 
    Harris believes that the federal government should respond to the coronavirus pandemic by giving Americans $2,000 monthly stipends while banning evictions, utilities shutoffs, foreclosures, and rent increases. She signed onto the Masks For All Act, which would provide free masks to Americans at no cost. Harris introduced legislation that would establish a task force to address health inequities made apparent by pandemic. She also believes free and widespread testing should be available. 

    Harris supports a $15 minimum wage for working families. While in the Senate, Harris worked to repeal Trump’s 2017 tax breaks for the richest one percent through her legislation called the LIFT Act, which would cut taxes for the working class and lift 9 million people out of poverty. Harris also introduced a bill to help Americans with housing by offering 13.3 million families tax subsidies to afford rent. Harris received a 100% rating from the AFL-CIO. She also introduced legislation to strengthen the rights of public sector workers and their right to collectively bargain. 

    While in the Senate, Harris co-sponsored the Medicare for All Act of 2019. During her run for President, she proposed a 10-year transition plan for universal coverage where private insurers would be allowed to compete provided they follow certain rules. As candidate for Vice President, Harris supports Joe Biden’s plan to strengthen the Affordable Care Act by offering a public option.    

    In response to the police murder of George Floyd, Harris introduced with other Senators the Justice in Policing Act, legislation that would bans chokeholds and no-knock warrants, set national standards to hold police officers accountable for misconduct, prohibit racial profiling, and established a national data collection system on police misconduct.  

    Kamala Harris

    Senator Kamala Harris is the first Black woman and South Asian American woman to be nominated for Vice President of the United States by a major party. As the daughter of immigrants, Harris’s groundbreaking nomination is a win for people of color.

    Last updated: 2020-09-10
Other Candidates

Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States, is the incumbent and Republican nominee. He won the 2016 election by capturing a majority of votes in the electoral college votes while losing the popular vote by 3 million votes. In 2020, Trump was impeached for requesting foreign assistance in the 2016 election.  During his time in office, he attacked affordable healthcare by attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, overhauled the U.S. tax system to benefit the richest one percent of Americans and wealthy corporations, and took away Title IX funding for Planned Parenthood. He appointed conservative judges to the judiciary who are hostile to abortion rights, denied amnesty to thousands of immigrants fleeing violence from Central America, attempted to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protected young immigrants from deportation, sided with racists during times of racial upheaval in our nation, and completely botched the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump’s running mate is Vice President Mike Pence, a yes-man to Donald Trump who co-chairs the administration’s failed response to the coronavirus. As Vice President, he advocated for repealing the Affordable Care Act.  Pence is known for his discrimination against the LGBTQ community by opposing same-sex marriage, and advocating for gay conversion therapy. He praised a Trump administration rule that allows adoption agencies to discriminate against gay couples. When Pence was Governor of Indiana, he signed a bill that enacted some of the strictest abortion restrictions in the country. The bill was later ruled to be unconstitutional. 

The Liberatian Party has nominated Jo Jorgensen for President and Jeremy “Spike” Cohen for Vice President. Jorgensen is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Clemson University. Cohen owns a podcast platform. The ticket’s platform includes radically reducing the size of government, turning America into “one giant Switzerland,” reducing environmental protections to increase coal and oil production, and eliminating the federal Department of Education.

Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris are the clear progressive choices for the 2020 Presidential election. 

U.S. Senator

  • Democrat
  • About the Race

    This election occurs on November 3, 2020, and shares a ballot with the US presidential election. Current Senator Mark Warner (D), who has also served as the governor of Virginia, will be running against Daniel Gade, a retired Army Lt. Colonel who worked in the Trump administration.

    About the State

    Every eligible Virginia voter may cast a ballot in the US Senate election. Virginia saw an incredibly high turnout in 2016, with 72% of registered voters turning out to vote, more than 15% higher than the average US voter turnout. Virginia usually sees more than 70% of registered voters turn out for presidential election years.

    Recommendation

    Incumbent Democrat Senator Mark Warner has represented Virginia as United States Senator since 2008. Before his election to the Senate, he served as Virginia’s Governor from 2002 to 2006. In the Senate, Warner is the Vice Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and he also serves on several other committees.

    Warner is known for his service on the Intelligence Committee in investigating and condemning Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He is also a fierce advocate for protecting the country’s electoral process. Warner sponsored legislation that was supported by representatives on both sides of the aisle to prevent foreign meddling in elections and promote greater transparency in online political advertising. In 2020, Warner voted to convict President Donald Trump and remove him from office at the end of the Senate impeachment trial.

    In 2019, Warner joined other senators in introducing the Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore and strengthen the original 1965 Voting Rights Act. In 2020, he called on the Senate to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell failed to bring it up for a vote.

    Sen. Warner voted against the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. He opposed a federal abortion ban and believes that abortion is a constitutionally-protected right.

    Warner wants to invest in infrastructure projects to create jobs and boost the economy. During his time in the Senate, Warner has pushed for increased federal spending on transit, water improvement projects, and airports in the Commonwealth. In 2020, Warner championed the Great Outdoors Act to bring federal relief to the country’s national park system, which would bring over 10,000 jobs to Virginia alone.

    Warner joined other Senators in lambasting the Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. During the coronavirus pandemic, he has pushed for more funding for testing supplies and PPE while also supporting the expansion of Medicaid and Medicare coverage to more Americans. Warner has pushed for increased broadband access so more people can use the Internet during the pandemic to work from home and attend school.

    Warner’s opponent, Daniel Gade, is a U.S. Army veteran and professor at American University. Gade supports cutting taxes, reducing the size of government, promoting economic deregulation with free market policies. He believes that the U.S. economy should re-open as quickly as possible during the pandemic. Gade has said he approves of President Trump’s performance so far.

    Due to his record of service supporting abortion rights, healthcare access, the environment, and protecting our democracy, Senator Mark Warner is the more progressive choice to represent Virginia in the U.S. Senate.

    Last updated: 2020-10-09

Congress, 3rd Congressional District

Member of the House of Representatives

  • About the Race

    This election shares a ballot with the US Presidential election held on November 3, 2020. Incumbent Virginia politician and longtime incumbent, Congressman Bobby Scott (D), is running for re-election against John Collick (R), a retired Marine Sergeant and small business owner.

    About the District

    Virginia’s 3rd congressional district stretches across parts of Hampton Roads and encompasses all of the cities of Franklin, Newport News, and Portsmouth, as well as all of Isle of Wight county. It also contains parts of the cities of Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Suffolk. In 2012, the 3rd district was found to have been unconstitutionally gerrymandered based on race. It was redrawn for the 2016 elections to exclude parts of Richmond which had previously been included in the district. The district is reliably Democratic, even since redistricting. Bobby Scott ran unopposed for re-election in 2018, and Senator Tim Kaine won the district with 70% of the vote.

    Recommendation

    A lifelong statesman, Democratic Representative Bobby Scott has represented Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District since 1993. Before his election to federal office, Rep. Scott was a member of the Virginia Senate from 1983 to 1993 and the House of Delegates from 1978 to 1983. When he was first elected, Scott was the first African-American to represent Virginia in Congress since Reconstruction. He grew up in Newport News, but moved to Massachusetts for his education after Virginia schools closed instead of integrating after the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. There, he attended Harvard College and Boston College Law School.

    Rep. Scott is the Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and also serves on the House Judiciary Committee. During his tenure, Scott has consistently advocated for labor rights.

    In 2020, he sponsored the “Protecting to the Right to Organize Act,” which was passed by the House. The PRO Act strengthens workers’ rights to strike, collectively bargain, form unions, and have better working conditions. Scott sponsored legislation to protect all workers from COVID-19 and to help laid-off and furloughed workers keep their job-based insurance during the pandemic. In 2019, he championed the “Raise the Wage Act” to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.

    Scott co-chairs the Voting Rights Caucus. He has called on the federal government to protect the integrity of the elections during the pandemic and to end voter suppression. He also supports restoring the Voting Rights Act.

    Although a supporter of a single-payer healthcare system, Scott worked with members of Congress to pass the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. He co-sponsored legislation in 2020 to protect the ACA from the Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle Obamacare. His bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act, sought to expand Medicaid coverage so more Americans are insured during the coronavirus pandemic, lower the cost of prescription drugs, and reduce health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

    As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, Scott has regularly introduced legislation aimed at criminal justice reform. He co-sponsored the “George Floyd Justice in Policing Act” in response to the police murder of George Floyd. His legislation bans chokeholds and no-knock warrants, sets national standards to hold police officers accountable for misconduct, prohibits racial profiling, and establishes a national data collection system on police conduct. Before his 2020 efforts to reform the criminal justice system, Scott co-sponsored the Safe, Accountable, Fair, and Effective (SAFE) Justice Act in 2015 and 2017. The SAFE Justice Act was a comprehensive reform aimed at reducing the country’s prison population by cutting mandatory sentence minimums, reducing recidivism, stopping overcriminalization, and using evidence-based crime prevention strategies.

    Representing an area that is experiencing the effects of climate change firsthand with rising sea levels, Rep. Scott supports the Green New Deal. He has co-sponsored bills that increase federal investments in renewable energy spending and opposes offshore oil and gas exploration in Virginia and throughout the nation’s coasts. Congressman Scott also voted to impeach Donald Trump in 2019.

    Rep. Scott is facing a challenge from Republican John Collick. A Marine veteran, Collick is a conservative who opposes abortion access. Collick is convinced that the government will confiscate guns from citizens and opposes an assault weapons ban. He believes that America should do more to control immigration into the country by placing biometric controls on people entering the U.S. He also supports using public money to pay for private education.

    Due to his record serving the people in his district and fighting for their rights, Rep. Bobby Scott is the most progressive candidate for Virginia’s 3rd District.

    Last updated: 2020-09-10

City of Portsmouth

Portsmouth Mayor

No Recommendation

About the Race

Portsmouth’s mayoral election takes place on November 3, 2020, as part of the general election. The election is nonpartisan. Candidates Shannon Glover and Danny Meeks have more progressive records. Current City Councilman Paul Battle voted to turn Portsmouth into a Second Amendment sanctuary city, and Cliff Page supports keeping the city’s Confederate monuments.

About the District

Portsmouth is an independent city in Hampton Roads, which is located on the Elizabeth River’s western side. It has a population of approximately 100,000. The city reliably votes Democratic in presidential elections, with every Democratic presidential candidate of the last twenty years winning with over 60% of the vote. However, the city still has some conservative values, as evidenced by the City Council’s decision to declare Portsmouth a Second Amendment sanctuary city.

Recommendation

Shannon Glover is a U.S. Navy veteran and local business owner, who currently serves on the Portsmouth City Council. He runs a healthcare consulting firm in Virginia Beach. He and his wife are co-owners of Creative Learners Education Center, a Portsmouth daycare center.

Glover is focused on government transparency and is committed to improving the public perception of the Portsmouth City Council and government. Glover believes that improving the City Council’s reputation will lead to economic growth, investment, and development for Portsmouth.

Glover refused to give an opinion on removing Confederate monuments from Portsmouth and has not openly supported a local procurement policy designed to help new businesses owned by women and minorities.

He received the endorsement of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Steering Committee, an organization that works to honor and continue the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Glover voted against making Portsmouth a Second Amendment sanctuary city.

Danny Meeks was elected to Portsmouth City Council in 2012. He resigned before his term ended in 2016 after accusations surfaced about tax evasion and other corruption charges. He was not on the council when it voted to turn Portsmouth into a Second Amendment sanctuary city and has not stated how he would have voted on this issue.

Meeks wants to create a local racial equality commission. He supported removing Portsmouth’s Confederate monument and offered to do it himself at no charge to the city. City Council members have expressed the view that his offer constituted a “bribe” during election season.

Democratic House of Delegates representative Steve Heretick endorsed Danny Meeks in his run for mayor. Meeks and Heretick plan to work together to bring casinos to Portsmouth, which Meeks believes will spur economic growth in the city.

Local sculptor, Cliff Page supports keeping Confederate monuments and has called state Senator Louise Lucas and the NAACP “racist” for wanting to remove the monuments. He has also accused Bernie Sanders and his supporters of trying to turn America into a communist state. Page opposes bringing casinos to Portsmouth and wants to see a high-speed railway system in the city.

Councilman Paul Battle voted to turn Portsmouth into a Second Amendment sanctuary while on City Council. Battle opposes raising taxes and does not wish to expand the budget. Battle stated that he believes law enforcement officers are critical to the city and that all law enforcement positions should be “fully staffed.”

Tony Goodwin, a real estate agent, wants to open a cancer-centered hospital in Portsmouth to deal with the city’s high cancer rates. He believes that expanding Portsmouth’s tourism industry will lead to economic growth and development. Goodwin plans to prevent Portsmouth from acquiring any more buildings or properties without a stated purpose. Goodwin has not made any statements about racial justice or Confederate monuments.

Current mayor John Rowe is not running for re-election.

Donna B. Sayegh, a nurse with over twenty years of experience, previously ran for Portsmouth City Council. She went on record in 2018 in favor of restorative justice in public schools. The only other information available at this time is about her campaign shows she has not raised any funds.

 


Portsmouth City Council (top 3 vote getters)

No Recommendation

About the Race

The Portsmouth City Council election is held on November 3, 2020, in conjunction with the U.S. presidential election. It is an at-large election to fill all three open seats on the City Council. Candidates De’Andre Barnes, Ed Brown, Dante Walston, and Councilwoman Lisa Lucas-Burke are running against Councilwoman Elizabeth Psimas, Mark Hugel, Nathan Clark, Ambakey Bolden, Ted Lamb, and former Councilman Mark Whitaker.

About the District

Portsmouth is an independent city in Hampton Roads, which is located on the Elizabeth River’s western side. It has a population of approximately 100,000. The city reliably votes Democratic in presidential elections, with every Democratic presidential candidate of the last twenty years winning with over 60% of the vote. However, the city still has some conservative values, as evidenced by the City Council’s decision to declare Portsmouth a Second Amendment sanctuary city.

Recommendation

De’Andre Barnes is a public school teacher who currently serves on the Portsmouth School Board. During his time on the school board, five schools in Portsmouth earned a Virginia State Board honor for academic improvements. He is running for city council on a platform of transparency and open communication with Portsmouth residents. 

Barnes’s worked to increase and optimize investment in technology in the classroom and improve the performance of low-income schools in Portsmouth while on the School Board. 

Barnes opened lines of communication with the community during the COVID crisis, using his Facebook page to announce and post recordings of School Board meetings and ensure that students still had access to education during the quarantine. 

Barnes is vocal about the impact that Portsmouth’s high crime rate has on students. He is passionate about preventing minors’ untimely deaths due to violence, accidents, and suicide in the city. 

Barnes supports organizations that work to reintegrate veterans back into their communities. He has attended peaceful protests in support of racial justice. 

Barnes is open to bringing casinos to Portsmouth to create an entertainment district that will drive economic growth and hosted an open forum to hear input from the community on the matter.

Ed Brown is a public school teacher who is passionate about investing in youth and education. He has served as the head of the Portsmouth Parks and Recreation Commission as well as the Museums and Fine Arts Commission. He has been elected president of the Churchland Middle School PTA and helped organize Portsmouth’s “Restoration of Rights” clinic to restore rights to formerly incarcerated individuals. 

Brown supports public safety initiatives to combat the increase in Portsmouth crime. Brown believes that the council should support and fund initiatives that can decrease crime without relying solely on heavy police presence in neighborhoods. Those initiatives include city grants to make sure streets are well-lit, citizen watch groups, and teen employment and recreation. 

Brown is passionate about community violence issues, particularly those that affect Portsmouth youth, and has spoken at anti-violence rallies in partnership with Democrats for a More Progressive Portsmouth. 

A believer in the community and public health benefits of parks and other public recreation spaces, Brown wants to increase the land used for public recreation and the number of parks in Portsmouth. He also thinks that more parks and other recreation spaces will attract new people to move to Portsmouth and drive economic growth. 

Lisa Lucas-Burke is an experienced community leader who has served on the Portsmouth City Council since 2016. She has also served as the president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s Portsmouth Alumnae Chapter. In addition to being on City Council, she also serves on the Portsmouth Partnership Board of Directors and is chair of the Portsmouth Economic Development Authority. 

Lucas-Burke is dedicated to public safety issues and believes that police-community relations are important in bringing down crime rates effectively and safely. She supported common-sense gun violence prevention legislation and voted against a proposal to make Portsmouth a Second Amendment sanctuary city. 

After protestors partially removed the Confederate monument in Portsmouth and a man was critically injured, Lucas-Burke voted to remove the monument. 

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Steering Committee, an organization that works to honor and continue the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., endorsed Lisa Lucas-Burke in her run for City Council. 

Dante Walston is a music teacher with a deep passion for Portsmouth and an interest in local issues. He is running on a progressive platform pushing for change and transparency.  

Walston will invest in infrastructure to improve the quality of life in Portsmouth. Walston supports repairing roads and creating an infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians so that city residents can live healthier and more mobile lives. He believes that investing in infrastructure will reduce crime by ensuring that areas are well-lit at night and easily accessible to first responders. 

Given Portsmouth’s vulnerability to flooding, Walston supports taking proactive steps to improve flooding response. In the long-term, he wants to take flooding prevention measures, including seeking state funding to address chronic flooding issues in Portsmouth. 

Walston believes the best way to reduce crime in Portsmouth is through community involvement and proper investment in first responders, with a particular focus on raising the salaries for 911 operators, so they do not leave Portsmouth for similar jobs in other cities. 

Walston argues that toll roads around downtown Portsmouth have severely hindered economic growth and wants to see them removed or curtailed.  

Walston believes that the City Council leadership must be proactive in creating an environment for economic growth.  He intends to create support mechanisms for small businesses in Portsmouth, including tax incentives for business owners to move to Portsmouth after COVID-19. 

Councilman Nathan Clark is a Republican who is outspoken about protecting police. Clark is a strong supporter of gun rights and open carry laws. He has even brought an AR-15 style rifle to City Council meetings. 

Incumbent Elizabeth Psimas has not expressed any opinions on progressive issues and has yet to put forward substantial platforms. Psimas voted in favor of turning Portsmouth into a Second Amendment sanctuary. 

Ted Lamb is somewhat progressive on education and economic development, such as his plan to increase funding for resources to enhance existing education programs (STEM and College First). Still, he is silent on racial issues and the impact of climate issues, such as flooding. 

No statements or priorities put forward by candidate Mark Hugel express explicit opinions on matters of progressive policy.

Candidate Ambakey Bolden has stated that he wishes to run “a positive campaign, built on integrity and honesty.” He has yet to put forward any substantial policies or statements about a platform. 

Former Councilman Mark Whitaker was convicted of forging loan paperwork for his church in 2018. He had his civil rights restored by Gov. Ralph Northam in 2019 and is now running to regain his seat on the City Council. Whitaker has yet to put forward a concrete plan or make any public statements regarding his renewed council run beyond his support of racial justice. He was not present for the City Council vote to turn Portsmouth into a Second Amendment sanctuary city. 

Candidate Tamara Shewmake currently serves on the City of Portsmouth School Board.

Though her campaign site shares limited information, she does state that she would support and advocate for education, public safety, economic growth and climate change preparation.  

Shewmake’s previous School Board campaign platform focused on early literacy, financial literacy and vocational training. She expressed commitment to ensuring an equal and high quality education for all children throughout the City of Portsmouth. As a School Board member, she has advocated for additional funds for education and technology, citing the lack of available resources such as Chromebooks, iPads, or wifi.

In her School Board capacity, Shewmake worked to build support systems for vulnerable students, emphasizing the need to train teachers to recognize signs of distress, and advocates for greater access to mental health support in public school systems. 

Shewmake acknowledges that lack of available resources is one of the biggest challenges facing teachers and believes that prioritizing community engagement and specific funding will help begin to address this problem. 

Beyond voicing her support for education, public safety, economic growth and climate change preparation, Shewmake does not go into further detail about her platform or her plans for Portsmouth if elected to City Council.

 

 


Portsmouth City School Board (top 5 vote getters)

No Recommendation

About the Race

The election for the Portsmouth School Board is held on November 3, 2020 during the general election. It is an at-large election to fill all five open seats on the school board. There are nine candidates running in this race: Ingrid Whitaker, Yolonda Thomas, and LaKeesha Atkinson, Arnette “Love” McSwain, Barry Randall, Vernon Tillage, Gary Bunting and incumbents Angelia Allen and Sarah Duncan Hinds.

About the District

Portsmouth is an independent city in Hampton Roads which is located on the western side of the Elizabeth River. It has a population of approximately 100,000. The city reliably votes Democratic in presidential elections, with every Democratic candidate of the last twenty years winning with over 60% of the vote. However, the city still has some conservative values, as evidenced by the City Council’s decision to declare Portsmouth a Second Amendment sanctuary city.

Recommendation

Current school board member LaKeesha “Klu” Atkinson ran as a progressive when she was first elected to the Portsmouth school board in 2016. She was the first openly LGBTQ+ individual elected to the city’s School Board. She is the founder of an activist organization called Believe, Pray, Overcome, an advocacy and educational organization that has sponsored several fundraisers for progressive causes, including sending water to Flint, Michigan, and giving free haircuts to homeless members of the community. She serves on the local NAACP Men Alleviating Negativity Foundation Board. 

During her time on the school board, Atkinson implemented programs to prevent bullying, particularly against LGBTQ+ students. 

She oversaw five schools in Portsmouth, earning a Virginia State Board honor for academic improvements. Atkinson supported keeping raises for teachers in the Portsmouth School Board budget, even after revenue problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. She has used her position to shine a light on unnecessary child gun deaths. 

Atkinson has lived her values of helping students. She was once charged with misdemeanor obstruction of justice for trying to stop police from questioning minors without proper legal oversight. The charges were later dropped. 

Yolanda Thomas is a Portsmouth native who returned to the city after graduating from UVA to work as a bridge consultant working with multiple government agencies and private companies. 

Thomas believes that Portsmouth can have the top-ranked school system in Hampton Roads. She supports immersive language classes starting in the first grade. 

Thomas wants to expand  Career and Technical Education programs to include data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. She believes that expanding STEM opportunities will be beneficial for Portsmouth schools. 

Finally, she wants to build supportive out-of-school and after-school programs for students throughout the city. 

Thomas believes parental involvement and strong PTA relationships are vital to successful schools. 

Thomas has been very vocal about the need to have comprehensive testing in place if students plan to return to school in the Fall and has actively sought input from local parents and teachers on the matter. 

Ingrid Whitaker is a local Portsmouth teacher who served on the School Board before losing re-election in 2018. During her time on the school board, she advocated for fully funding Portsmouth schools, including teacher pay raises and additional services for students. 

Whitaker wants to prioritize consistent raises for teacher salaries, create new after-school programs to support students, and expand career and technical education. She supported providing students access to wifi outside of school environments even before the pandemic. She wanted teachers and schools to be aware of the discrepancies in learning at home between students who do not have access to high-speed internet. 

She also believes that adding more social workers and counselors to schools can improve students’ academic performance and emotional health and ensure at-risk students do not fall through the cracks. 

Incumbents Angelia Allen and Sarah Duncan Hinds have supported some progressive measures. Portsmouth was the first school district in Hampton Roads to vote for maintaining previously-budgeted teacher pay raises in danger of being cut due budget shortfalls caused by COVID-19 by a unanimous vote. The School Board also voted to remove Confederate names from Portsmouth schools. They also oversaw five schools in Portsmouth that earned a Virginia State Board honor for academic improvements. 

However, the School Board also voted to put a clause in teacher contracts that would permit schools to furlough them if classes do not resume in the fall. The Board also voted to extend the Portsmouth Superintendent’s contract without proper review and offered him a 2-year salary severance package, which is double a superintendents’ average severance package. There are ongoing disputes related to this issue amongst School Board members and local political groups. 

Newcomer Arnette “Love” McSwain is a minister who runs a program for women who are victims of domestic violence. She has no platform information posted about her school board run. 

Candidate Barry Randal has no visible platform or campaign website. 

Another candidate, Vernon Tillage, was once State Senator Louise Lucas’ Chief of Staff. He currently works for U.S. Senator Mark Warner doing outreach. He has no campaign information posted. 

Candidate Willie Bamberg, II is a combat veteran, former business owner, and currently a Chaplain with the Portsmouth Police Department where he is also employed (part-time) as the Community Outreach Specialist. His platform includes vocational training, alternative school, 100% accreditation, and competitive pay for faculty. Based on the available information, Bamberg is not the most progressive choice in this race.

The final candidate, Gary Bunting, has no information posted about his run for School Board and has very little information publicly available. 


Constitutional Amendments

Virginia Redistricting Commission Constitutional Amendment

  • VOTE NO
    Vote NO on this Flawed Amendment
  • We all deserve free and fair elections so that all of us can make our voices heard with equal power in our communities. But for years, conservative politicians have been doing everything they can to hoard power and ensure that they get re-elected no matter what the people want. They’ve done this by rigging district maps to dilute the power of communities of color and prevent people from making their voices heard. This November, there will be a constitutional amendment on the ballot that enshrines in our state constitution the power of politicians to pick their voters instead of allowing voters to choose their representatives. We need to vote no on this political bait and switch and ensure that the power stays with the people, not power-hungry politicians.

    About the Amendment
    This amendment gives the power to draw political maps to a commission made up of politicians and people hand-picked by politicians. They will draw the maps, and then members of the General Assembly will vote to accept or reject them. This amendment does not remove politicians from the process. The amendment also fails to adequately protect people of color in the constitution, instead relying on separate legislation that could be repealed, jeopardizing civil rights protections.

    We deserve a truly independent commission to ensure fair and equitable redistricting. Vote no on this amendment to put the power back in the hands of the people and keep politicians from choosing their voters instead of the other way around.

    About the Decision
    We can’t get clean elections with dirty maps drawn by politicians more interested in protecting their power than ensuring our voices are heard in our democracy.  We need to give the power back to the people and remove politicians from the process of drawing political boundaries completely. We can create a commission of concerned voters and nonpartisan experts who can draw fair, compact districts that ensure communities of color are protected, and everyone can make their voice heard equally.

    Amending the constitution is a big deal, and if we’re going to do it, we need to make sure we are getting it right. We don’t have to accept a flawed amendment or nothing at all. We can go back to the drawing board and ensure that what we are enshrining permanently in our constitution is fair, just, equitable, and gets us the results we want. Leaders in our community such as Congressman Donald McEachin and Congressman Bobby Scott know that this amendment is the wrong move. 


    The most progressive approach to redistricting is to vote NO on this flawed amendment and demand better to simultaneously protect historically underrepresented communities and draw fair district lines by including strong, specific, and clear rules to protect communities of color.

    Virginia Redistricting Commission Constitutional Amendment

    We all deserve free and fair elections so that all of us can make our voices heard with equal power in our communities. But for years, conservative politicians have been doing everything they can to hoard power and ensure that they get re-elected no matter what the people want.

    Last updated: 2020-10-26

Exemption for Disabled Veterans Constitutional Amendment

  • No Position
    No Position: Motor Vehicle Property Tax Exemption for Disabled Veterans
  • This tax exemption will exclusively benefit veterans residing in Virginia who have a disability 100% connected to their service.

    This amendment was proposed by Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn and was approved unanimously in the Senate and near-unanimously in the House. It will grant a property tax exemption for a single vehicle to disabled veterans whose disability is 100% connected with their service. There have been calls to limit the maximum value of cars that may be included in this exemption or limit the exemption based on the veteran’s income, which would be addressed later through legislation in the General Assembly.

    Virginia Association of Counties and the Virginia Municipal League (VML) both objected to this exemption because they believed that property tax exemptions should remain under local jurisdiction and not be mandated by the General Assembly. The VML argues that because localities do not decide to declare and send soldiers to war, the financial responsibility for caring for them should fall not on localities but on the federal government.
     

    Last updated: 2020-10-07