Perhaps it is because there are four candidates in the Ward 6 race that the Ward 7 race, with just two candidates, has been pretty much of a sleeper. Or maybe it is because the differences between the two wards in terms of fundraising is so stark: according to VPAP, over $154,000 had been raised in the Ward 6 race while less than a third of that – just over $48,000 – had been raised in the Ward 7 race through March 31. In my daily travels, I’ve seen numerous yard signs for candidates in Ward 6. Until Sunday, I had only seen a couple of signs for Sonya Smith, the challenger in Ward 7. I saw a large sign Sunday for Angelia Williams, the incumbent, the only sign of hers I have seen. Both had ads (1, 2) in the Compass Sunday.
As I’ve mentioned before, my precinct was the only one in the city moved – from Ward 6 to Ward 7 – for this election. (I’m still smarting over the mayor saying that doing so would make Ward 7 “whiter.” While true, I took it as one more reason that Norfolk’s race-based ward system needs to go.) So I’ve tried to pay attention to this contest, despite the fact that I’ve just been through tax season.
My civic league held a meeting on April 17, the tax filing deadline, and because at least one of the candidates was to appear, I was determined to attend. As it turns out, only Williams was invited to speak. Given that the person who is elected Tuesday will represent us beginning July 1, I found it unreasonable that only Williams was invited. (The excuse I was given was that they thought she already represented us.)
More importantly, why was it necessary to invite Williams in the first place? Seems to me that the first place a candidate needs to go is to new areas that she would like to represent, because the people there are least likely to know her. If you have to be invited to show up, that doesn’t give me much confidence that the concerns of my neighborhood will be considered.
I can’t give Smith a pass on this, either. She should have been at my civic league as well. Folks can’t vote for someone whose name they don’t even know – and yes, there were folks there who asked who Williams’ opponent was. It’s not like we’ve gotten tons of mail or anything to let us know who is on the ballot. (In fact, the only mail I’ve received this cycle is from a candidate in Ward 6.) If you’re not going to show up when you’re running, it’s pretty unlikely that you are going to show up later.
About the only thing the average voter has learned about Smith during the course of this campaign is that she would have voted in favor of the Tivest project. Honestly, I can’t believe anyone would admit that now, particularly after the spectacular way that deal fell apart.
Of course, Williams changing her vote on the coal plant resolution ranks right up there, too. Rumor has it that Norfolk Southern officials put pressure on her – and other council members – to do so. (For those not making the Norfolk Southern connection to the coal plant, as this editorial states, they stand to benefit by transporting the coal.)
Williams used part of her time at my civic league to denounce fellow council member Paul Riddick (something that Barclay Winn did in an article in Sunday’s Compass). No doubt that is why one of the Smith yard signs I pass every day is in front of Riddick’s Funeral Home. I’m guessing there’s no love lost between Riddick and Williams.
To say I’m not thrilled with either of the choices in Ward 7 would be an understatement. Yes, Ward 7 is the poorer, blacker half of the city. But when I look back at the giants who have come out of this part of Norfolk, I have to wonder: where are today’s giants?
Norfolk deserves better but we’ll have to settle for one of these.
In case you missed it, here is the Ward 7 voter guide published by The Virginian-Pilot