‘As I See It’

Political Commentary • Vernon Whitmore

Editors Note:This is the first of a new column by Vernon Whitmore, former publisher of The Globe Newspapers. Whitmore is former President of the West Coast Black Publishers Association, Member of the California Black Media Group and a Richmond Chamber of Commerce Board member.

Traditionally the political season kicks into high gear on the Labor Day before an election, but this is Richmond. Local politicos are already abuzz after West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) Trustee Charles Ramsey announced he’s thrown his hat in the ring for the upcoming mayoral race.

Before Ramsey announced his intentions to run, the most probable candidates to fill the seat of termed out Mayor Gayle McLaughlin were councilmember Nat Bates and the person many said had to enter the race to oppose Nat, his fellow councilmember Tom Butt. What happened next was a shrewd move by Tom Butt that caught everyone off guard.

Butt, a local businessman, is very busy – running his architect business and serving as the unofficial mayor of sorts for the Point Richmond district. Enter his longtime ally Charles Ramsey, a local attorney who after 20 years serving on the WCCUSD board is ready to broaden his political horizons. Ramsey is essentially stepping into the space that Butt had occupied in this race.

Now there is a third candidate, Uche Uwahemu, also an attorney and a Richmond business owner. New to the local political scene, Uwahemu touts his campaign experience working for former Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry as well as President Barack Obama, whose reelection campaign he worked on in 2012.

Richmond elections are not usually pretty and the mayoral races of late have been brutal — pitting Black candidates against white, and well-funded business-backed candidates against under-funded progressive candidates.

The question many are asking is will the Richmond Progressive Alliance choose to enter a fourth contender in the race, support their ally Tom Butt’s guy Ramsey, or back the newcomer Uwahemu.

No matter who else may throw their hat in the ring, most feel this is now a two-person race between the big-business backed Bates and the labor candidate Ramsey. No David against Goliath this round — both are heavy hitters. However, after a brief meeting with Uwahemu, I came away impressed by his vision, political experience and fundraising skills, which should make this a very exciting race.

As we consider the future election, let’s take a moment to reflect and honor the recent past: My thoughts and prayers are with Gary Bell, who ran a successful campaign in 2012, and is recovering from illness. Heartfelt best wishes to his wife, Shelley, his sons and the rest of the Bell family. •

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