- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 1, 2004

Yesterday was first day for candidates to register for Richmond’s mayoral election, which will allow city residents to vote for their mayor for the first time in November.

As of yesterday afternoon, no one had filed, but one prominent politician already has said he will run — former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.

“I intend to be the next mayor,” Mr. Wilder told The Washington Times yesterday. “There has to be a change in government. It’s the capital city, and it belongs to everybody. I want youngsters in Richmond today to have the same opportunities that I had.”

He said the city’s high crime rate is holding back Richmond’s youth and pledged to stop “the slaughter of young people by young people.”

“It’s more of a responsibility that I run — I can’t sit on the sidelines and complain,” Mr. Wilder, 73, said.

Two other politicians have said they will seek the mayor’s office — current Mayor Rudolph C. McCollum Jr. and Richmond school board member Charles Nance.

Mr. Nance, an estate and trust attorney, said running against the former governor is like running against Mount Rushmore. He said he has tremendous respect for Mr. Wilder, but that won’t stop him from campaigning against the former governor.

“We have a chance to put a new imprint on the city and move in new directions, and it’s good to do it with some new faces,” Mr. Nance, 53, said.

Mr. McCollum, 48, could not be reached this week. He told the Richmond Times-Dispatch recently that he considers himself the “incumbent underdog.”

Like his predecessors, Mr. McCollum, as a member of the City Council, was selected by his fellow council members to be mayor. The title allows him to run the council’s meetings, while the city manager — Calvin D. Jamison — oversees Richmond’s day-to-day operations.

Last November, voters approved by a 4-to-1 margin a referendum calling for the popular election of the mayor.

Mr. Wilder, the country’s first black governor, was instrumental in getting the referendum on the ballot.

The General Assembly this year passed a bill that draws clear lines of authority for the mayor. The city manager will be eliminated, and the new mayor will appoint a chief administrative officer to manage city departments. The mayor also will oversee the city’s budget and finances. The City Council’s vice mayor will lead its meetings.

Delegate Viola Baskerville, who was a Richmond council member from 1994 to 1998, helped lead the charge in the legislature to change Richmond’s charter. She said she hopes a stronger mayor will deflect attention from past council member corruption scandals — which have included bribery and tax evasion.

Last week, the council decided the mayor will receive an annual salary of $125,000 and health benefits. The mayor’s post currently pays $27,000. The mayor also will receive a city car or be paid $700 per month for car expenses.

No fund-raising totals for the candidates were available yesterday. The reports are not due until Sept. 15.

Residents seeking to run for mayor have until Aug. 2 to submit the needed paperwork and voter signatures.

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