Update: The forum will take place at Virginia Union University in Coburn Hall at 7 p.m., according to a statement released by Wilder's office on Monday morning.
If there was any doubt whether former Virginia Governor and Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder was going to sit on the sidelines during the upcoming local election cycle, his latest move will put it to rest.
The Virginia Commonwealth University Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs will host a forum for the city’s rumored and declared mayoral hopefuls on Wednesday, April 6, according to a personal invitation Wilder sent to potential participants and obtained by Richmond Magazine.
“The importance of the upcoming election for the future of the city and the region can hardly be overstated,” Wilder wrote in the invitation.
Wilder and Bob Holsworth, a well-known observer of city and state politics, will moderate the forum.
“We thought a mayoral forum would be an interesting and useful way for the city to begin to focus on” the upcoming local elections, Holsworth said Thursday.
The pair will ask participants about their vision for the city, Holsworth said, as well as some of the issues that are likely to dominate the campaigns: City Hall’s finances and public education. Members of the public will be able to ask questions of the candidates, as well.
As many as a dozen candidates, both declared and likely, were invited, Holsworth added.
Lillie A. Estes, a declared candidate and community strategist, said she plans to attend the event. So, too, does Chris Hilbert, a rumored candidate who serves as vice president of Richmond City Council. “I appreciate the opportunity,” Hilbert said.
Jeff Bourne, chairman of the Richmond School Board and a potential candidate, said he is still on the fence about attending because he has not decided whether he will run for mayor. "If I ultimately decide not to run, it negates the relevance of me being there," Bourne said.
Levar Stoney, Virginia’s Secretary of the Commonwealth and presumed mayoral candidate, offered a similar response, but said he would not attend.
“As much as I appreciated the invitation, attending Governor Wilder’s forum would be premature,” Stoney wrote in a text message. “I am fully focused on serving the people of Virginia in the job I have and will make a decision about a campaign for mayor at a later date.”
In recent months Wilder has taken to the pages of the Richmond Times-Dispatch to weigh in on the election and potential candidates, including Stoney. Rumors swirled for a time that the 85-year-old was mulling a run himself.