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What’s on the ballot? In a tight race for the 11th District, Charlottesville prepares for the primary

Tuesday’s election will determine the Democratic candidate for the 11th Senate district along with Charlottesville’s new City Council members.

Same-day, in-person registration remains open for Tuesday's election.
Same-day, in-person registration remains open for Tuesday's election.

State Sen. Creigh Deeds and Delegate Sally Hudson are battling for the 11th district Senate seat in Tuesday's Democratic primary election. Voters will also choose from three candidates in the race to represent the 54th district in the House of Delegates, and Charlottesville citizens will vote for three new City Council representatives.

Early voting began May 5 and election day will be held Tuesday at the Office of Voter Registration and Elections. Online registration ended May 30, but same-day, in-person registration remains open.

State Senate

The majority of Charlottesville and Albemarle will now be represented by District 11 following last year’s redistricting that combined the populations split by former Districts 25 and 17. District 25 incumbent Deeds will face Hudson in the Democratic primary to represent the newly drawn district.

Both Deeds and Hudson have campaigned on progressive policies. The two candidates revealed similar priorities of expanding gun legislation and education reform in an April debate hosted by the U.Va. Center for Politics and Charlottesville Tomorrow.

However, Deeds says his 22-year tenure in the Senate would give him an advantage over Hudson in achieving these goals if elected.

“The system is built upon two things — relationships, and seniority.” Deeds said in an interview with The Cavalier Daily. “I get things done.”

In contrast to Deed’s experience in the Senate, Hudson has cited her accomplishments in the House of Delegates and said she would bring a fresh perspective to the seat. In addition to her election in 2019 and re-election in 2021, Hudson works as an assistant professor in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

“While I am grateful to Senator Deeds for his decades of public service, he has not historically been on the leading edge of the party,” Hudson said in a May interview with the Cavalier Daily. “He has typically been someone who eventually comes around once the political landscape has shifted, and I don't think that's the kind of leadership we need from this district.”

In terms of specific platform points, Deeds is focused on strengthening gun laws and increasing funding for public schools and universities. 

Following the Virginia General Assembly’s failure to agree on a state budget deal this February — leaving over $3 million in surplus revenue unspent — Deeds said he would focus on resolving the standoff between parties while increasing funding for mental health initiatives and K-12 education. 

The General Assembly meets each December to review a proposed two-year budget bill from the governor. Deeds said he would push to lessen the burden of rising higher education tuition costs on students by allocating more state funding towards universities. 

“The state needs to just buck up and increase its contribution to higher education.” Deeds said.

Deed’s other priorities include promoting gun legislation to limit the possession of firearms on college campuses, especially given the deadly shooting on Grounds Nov. 13 that left three University students dead and two injured. 

Deeds sponsored a bill in the past term along with Timothy Longo, associate vice president for safety and security and University chief of police, to strengthen gun laws on college campuses with a bill that would have made carrying a firearm on school grounds a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, the legislation died in the House.

Hudson’s priorities include protecting reproductive rights, slowing the rise of college tuition costs and advocating for restrictions on gun ownership.

She has passed legislation banning individuals who committed hate crimes or acts of domestic violence from owning a firearm and eliminating the Charleston loophole — which allows gun sales to proceed after three days regardless of a completed background check. During her debate with Deeds, she said she would like to see increased public safety initiatives that work in alignment with community building programs that combat violence.

“Some of [this work] requires proactive investment in community institutions that will prevent violence and aggression before it starts,” Hudson said. “I think we really have to reckon with the fact that youth today have seen so much of their expectations about safety and stability shattered in a pandemic.”

Hudson did not respond to a request for comment before time of publication.

The winning candidate will take on Republican Philip Hamiton and Independent J’riah Guerrero in the Nov. 7 general election. 

House of Delegates

The House of Delegates race for the 54th district — which includes all of Charlottesville and a small portion of Albemarle county — features Katrina Callsen, Dave Norris and Bellamy Brown as opponents for the sole seat, with incumbent Hudson instead running for Senate.

Brown is a former chairman and member of Charlottesville’s Police Civilian Oversight Board and the commissioner of the Minority Business Commission. His campaign includes changes to public safety interventions, services for veterans and women's rights legislation such as increasing access to abortions. 

In a written statement to The Cavalier Daily, Brown said his identity within the City and his work on the Board provide him unique advantages in addressing issues such as crime and gun violence

“Being the only Charlottesville native, and having grown up in the Black community here, I have relationships that the other candidates don't have, and I'm better able to connect with our youth than the other candidates,” Brown said. 

Callesen told the Daily Progress she felt compelled to run for House through her work as a member of Albemarle County’s School Board and hopes to advocate for students and families.

“There’s a movement underway to not just defund … but also devalue public education in a way that I think is a problem for democracy,” Callsen said.

As a eight-year member of City Council until 2012 and two-time City mayor, Norris is returning to politics to prioritize reproductive rights, affordable housing, economic equality and mental health care reform, among other issues.

Norris said his experience serving Charlottesville will maximize his ability to promote these goals.

“I have a track record of getting good things done for the community,” Norris told The Daily Progress.

Callsen and Norris did not respond to a request for comment by time of publication.

City Council

Three of Charlottesville’s five City Council seats are up for grabs as Michael Payne, Lloyd Snook and Leah Puryear’s terms expire Dec. 31. Puryear, who was unanimously elected February to fill a vacant seat, is notably not running for re-election. 

Tuesday’s election will likely determine all three of the open seats on Charlottesville’s City Council — no Republican or independent candidates have entered the race. Charlottesville has not seen a Republican council member in more than 20 years and the party has not entered a candidate since 2011. 

Five candidates — Snook, Payne, Dashad Cooper, Natalie Oschrin and Robert Fenwick — will compete for three Council spots. 

Snook currently serves as Charlottesville’s mayor and is running for re-election as a Council member. His main goals include funding school development, making Charlottesville more pedestrian and bike friendly and building more affordable housing.

Another current Council member, Payne looks to build upon previous work in tackling affordable housing, climate change, funding in public schools and economic inequality. 

Cooper has served as co-chair of the Charlottesville Democratic Committee and centers his campaign on expanding restorative justice within the criminal system, addressing mental health issues and protecting the environment.

Oschrin, former Charlottesville election officer and Class of 2011 College alumna, ran for the vacant Council spot this February where she voiced goals of increasing housing and walkability in the City.

Fenwick served on Council from 2014 to 2017 and says he hopes to fund social support programs that reduce violence.

All candidates said they would support some form of a program for the city to collect funds from the University, per a questionnaire collected by Charlottesville Tomorrow. Payne specifically said he would push for a PILOT— payment in lieu of taxes — program to collect around $15 million from the University. Student Council passed legislation last semester similarly calling for PILOT implementation. 

“U.Va.'s tax-exempt status creates a structural inequality that makes it harder for Charlottesville to fund schools, affordable housing, public transit, and other vital community needs,” Payne said. “If UVA is ever going to be a good neighbor, U.Va. must do the same [as other PILOT universities] and pay their fair share.”

Emily Horn contributed reporting to this article.

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