Alexandria voters may want to enter their polling station with a cheat sheet during the June 12 Democratic primary. Twelve candidates are seeking the nomination to compete for six seats on the City Council, two-thirds of them newcomers to electoral politics.
One came to Alexandria in childhood as a Sudanese refugee. Another arrived in young adulthood, the son of Mexican immigrants. A former Navy officer, a former teacher, a nonprofit entrepreneur, an architect, a businessman with a political résumé and an antique store owner have also jumped into the race. Almost none, except for the four incumbents, have citywide reputations.
At least two new faces will earn the Democratic nomination, because council member Timothy Lovain is not running for reelection, and Vice Mayor Justin Wilson is giving up his council seat to run for mayor. The seats are for three-year terms, and the pay is $27,500 a year.
All City Council members are elected at-large in Alexandria, which means the first-time candidates need to build name recognition from the Potomac River to the far western reaches of Holmes Run. The current council members are all Democrats.
Republican and independent candidates are expected to challenge the Democratic nominees in the November general election. The Republicans will choose their candidates in a June 7 party canvass on Thursday. Independents have until June 12 to file their intention to run.
Here is a brief introduction to the Democrats in the race, who are set to debate for the final time Tuesday night:
Canek Aguirre, 33, the Los Angles-born son of Mexican immigrants, chairs the city’s economic opportunities commission and is the former president of the Tenant and Workers United board. He emphasizes increasing affordable and workforce housing for all, investing in public schools and improving parks and open space. He lives in the West End.
Willie F. Bailey Sr., 54, an incumbent, is seeking his second term. Raised in poverty, he served in the Army for 21 years, then joined the Fairfax County Fire Department, where he is now a battalion chief. Bailey is best known for championing an increase in the city’s affordable housing trust fund, to be paid for by increasing the meals tax to 5 percent from 4 percent. He lives in Del Ray.
Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, 32, is founder of Fruitcycle, which merged with Together We Bake, a nonprofit job-training program that works with women in need of a second chance. She wants to make council meetings more accessible by moving them around the city with child-care and translation services available, as well as allowing people to testify by video or text. She promises to be inclusive and fight for stronger public schools. She lives in Taylor Run.
John Taylor Chapman, 36, an incumbent, is seeking his third term. He grew up in public housing in Alexandria and, after graduating from college, was hired as a community use specialist in the Fairfax County school system. A former president of the local NAACP, Chapman also started a tour business that focuses on the stories of African Americans in Alexandria. His legislative work has focused on youth, affordable housing and small business development. He lives in Taylor Run.
Matt Feely, 57, is a retired naval officer and adjunct faculty member at Columbia University who teaches leadership and crisis decision-making. He seeks to bring analytical rigor and discipline to the city’s financial decisions, invest in education and infrastructure, and define the city’s priorities. He lives in Old Town.
Dak Hardwick, 41, assistant vice president for international affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association, former chairman of the local Democratic Party and past chair of the Chamber of Commerce, also chairs the city’s budget and fiscal affairs committee. He is running a business-friendly campaign and wants more public-private partnerships to help solve the city’s fiscal problems. He lives in Cameron Station.
Chris Hubbard, 60, an architect and planner who specializes in walkable, mixed-use communities, says he believes there is a lack of professionalism on the council now. He believes in “schools first” and pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. He is one of several candidates who support a city government satellite center in the West End. He lives in Old Town.
Amy Jackson, 47, an activist on nine local boards and a former teacher, emphasizes the importance of strong schools in her campaign. She also wants economic revitalization, particularly in the West End and Potomac Yard. She lives in the Seminary Hill neighborhood.
Redella “Del” Pepper, 80, the longest-serving incumbent on the council, is seeking her 12th term. She began her political career as an aide to former mayor Charles Beatley before running for office in 1985. A West End resident, she has been a stalwart voice for residents there, and for the elderly, but she is most proud of her role in making the city more ecologically friendly, including monitoring the closing of the GenOn coal-fired power plant in North Old Town in 2012.
Robert Ray, 58, an Old Town antiques dealer, wants to boost the voice of civic associations, teachers, business groups and others to “have maximum influence” in city government. He said residents now do not have access to enough information. He lives in Old Town.
Mo Seifeldein, 34, a Sudanese immigrant who worked his way through college and law school, became a mental health counselor and now is a lawyer, is the only candidate who has pledged not to accept developers’ donations. He wants more resources allocated to schools, early-childhood education and services for seniors. He supports responsible development, he says. He lives in the West End.
Paul Smedberg, 57, who works in health policy and government affairs, is seeking his sixth term on the council. He has been a fiscal watchdog and advocate for efficient government. He represents the city on the Metro board and the Virginia Railway Express board, and is chairman of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. He was a leader in the fight to close the GenOn plant coal-fired power plant. He lives in Old Town.