About the Race
The election of Richmond’s 5th District representative for City Council is held on November 3, 2020, in conjunction with the U.S. presidential election. The incumbent, Councilwoman Stephanie Lynch, is an open progressive running for her first full term on the council against Jer’mykeal McCoy.
About the District
Richmond is an independent city and the Commonwealth’s capital. It lies on the fall line of the James River between Chesterfield and Henrico counties. Richmond City’s population is roughly 200,000, although the greater metro area has a population of over 1 million. Richmond’s 5th District is located in the southwest part of the city. The 5th District trends Democratic, with Rep. Don McEachin (D) winning over 85% of the vote during the 2018 congressional election.
Stephanie Lynch is running for her first full term on Richmond City Council after winning a special election in 2019. She received her Master’s Degree in Social Work Administration and Policy Practice from VCU. After graduation, she was hired at Virginia’s Department of Social Services. Throughout her career, she worked to help implement the Affordable Care Act and fought for Medicaid expansion. She led the effort to start the Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services (ARTS) program, which now serves over 20,000 people. She has also worked for GoodNeighbor, one of Virginia’s largest mental health and disability services providers for disadvantaged communities.
During her short time on City Council, Lynch stepped up to help lead efforts to reform policing practices, helping draft a proposal to study defunding the Richmond Police Department. She is one of two Richmond City Council members to vote to study defunding the police, along with Mike Jones.
Lynch is running for the seat as a Democrat on an openly progressive platform. Her primary issues include transparency, spending Richmond’s tax dollars fairly, working with the Richmond School Board to create more equitable schools, ensuring green and inclusive development in the city, and supporting measures to decrease gun violence and trauma.
She believes the city must be accountable for its promises on education. She will work to create a culture of support for teachers, students, and families. This includes re-committing to the teacher and staff pay raises agreed upon in the budget approved before the COVID-19 pandemic. Lynch plans to establish an empowered teacher oversight committee with input on curriculum and purchasing decisions.
Lynch will support Richmond’s new Pilot Eviction Diversion Program, designed to decrease evictions in the city. She also wants to expand the Housing Affordability Trust Fund. She believes that by working with state legislators, the City Council can extend the rights and resources available to tenants in Richmond.
In addition to her progressive platform, Lynch also uses her social media accounts to voice her support progressive ideas and policies and to expose injustices within the system, such as explaining discrepancies in funding between the prosecutor and public defender’s offices, replacing school resource officers, and reforming drug courts.
Stephanie Lynch’s opponent, Jer’Mykeal McCoy is also running on an openly progressive platform, which includes expanding and fully funding COVID-19 testing efforts, improving the GRTC, and increasing funding for Richmond Public Schools. McCoy’s platform is far less detailed than Lynch’s and does not address police brutality or affordable housing as directly. McCoy’s background is primarily in business and professional development, rather than directly working on progressive issues. Given Lynch’s extensive experience in social work and activism, she has demonstrated a more consistent commitment to progressive issues than her opponent.
Also running for the 5th District City Council seat is activist Nicholas Da Silva, who is running his campaign on housing affordability, police accountability, food and transportation justice, funding of the city’s schools, and economic empowerment. He wants to give renters more rights in the city to resist eviction and mistreatment by landlords. He plans to reduce traffic by making public transportation free for every resident in the city. Da Silva wants to make the city’s police more accountable by making their statistics available for the public to see and foster community trust. Da Silva is a progressive, but Lynch’s experience in City Council gives her an edge in the race.
The third challenger to Lynch is Mamie Taylor, who formerly represented Richmond’s 5th District on the School Board from 2012 to 2016. Taylor is running her campaign on quality governance, transparency, and equity. She promises to promote transparency and clarity, tax reform, economic opportunities, better infrastructure for city streets, public schools, fair housing, better oversight of government spending, and more funding for public parks if elected to Richmond’s City Council. Taylor is also progressive, but she has not raised any money for her campaign.
Due to her commitment to policing reform, her platform of equality, and her commitment to working to improve disadvantaged communities, Stephanie Lynch is the most progressive choice in this race.