Richmond voters will take to the polls again on Tuesday to fill an open seat in the Virginia General Assembly.
Sen. Jennifer McClellan vacated the 71st District House of Delegates seat after winning a special election in January to move over to the Virginia Senate. The district comprises downtown Richmond, North Side, part of Church Hill and Fulton Hill, as well as part of Henrico County. Three candidates are vying for the seat: Libertarian John Barclay, Democrat Jeff Bourne and independent Regie Ford.
Barclay, 26, is a Richmond Public Schools teacher at Franklin Military Academy. The Charlottesville native moved to the district three years ago after graduating from the College of William & Mary. He has never run for or held public office, but decided to put his name in the running because he believes a viable third party is necessary for a functioning democracy.
“I really think the time is right and people are receptive to the idea of a third voice in government, and so I want to be that candidate,” Barclay says.
Among his top priorities, Barclay is advocating for education reform, the legalization of marijuana and a Constitutional amendment that automatically restores felons’ rights.
Jeff Bourne, 40, works in the Virginia Attorney General's Office as a deputy attorney general. He has represented the North Side 3rd District on the Richmond School Board since 2013, serving two years as chairman of the nine-person body. He won reelection in November. The open 71st District seat offered a chance to tackle education issues in a new role, he says.
“Being able to help strengthen public schools and public education at the state level is appealing to me and that’s going to be the focus of my experience in the General Assembly when I’m elected,” Bourne says.
Aside from education, Bourne says he’s eager to work on combating the state’s ongoing opioid epidemic and addiction problem, an issue that’s personal to him because of some of his family members’ past experiences.
McClellan, who represented the district for 10 years, endorsed Bourne, as did Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.
Regie Ford, 48, is a mortgage consultant for SunTrust. Ford has never run for or held public office, but he served for 18 months as president of the Richmond Crusade for Voters. He decided to run because he wants to represent the community.
“A lot of people are afraid to get up there because they don’t have a voice,” he says. “I want to represent the people.”
Ford says he’s interested in public education, income equality and women’s rights. If elected, he says he would tap his abilities as a natural negotiator to work across party lines to accomplish his goals.
“You have to be able to create relationships. You may not be able get your entire agenda across, but you have to start somewhere. I can give a little and they can take a little. I was born to negotiate,” he says.
The polls are open Tuesday until 7 p.m.