Charlottesville City Council Race Dominated by Independent Candidates

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Geoff Skelley Geoff Skelley
Dale Woodson Dale Woodson

The race for Charlottesville City Council is heating up with seven candidates and counting vying to fill two seats.

The majority of the candidates so far, are running as independents.

Charlottesville City Council has been dominated by members of the Democratic Party for more than 20 years. Rob Schilling, who now hosts a conservative radio talk show, was the only Republican during that time span to be elected to City Council.  

Now four people are running as independents - Nancy Carpenter, Nikuyah Walker, Paul Long and Dale Woodson -and they are hoping to break the Democratic streak.

"Just kind of tired of money and politics not representing the real people," said Woodson.

He sees other nonpartisan competitors in the electoral race as an advantage: "It's great to have a lot of people that care about the city enough to try and run this."

Woodson said it's time for City Council to change.

"I chose independent because, basically in the last year or so, I've really had a falling out with the Democratic Party personally. I think it wants to push a lot of views that aren't Democratic," he said.

The current Democratic candidates for City Council are incumbent Bob Fenwick, Heather Hill , and Amy Laufer.

"Going back to 1960, no independent has ever won a City Council seat in Charlottesville," said Geoff Skelley, a political analyst with the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Skelley says running as anything other than a Democrat, could be a battle for candidates.

"The Democratic Party has a pretty strong hold on the city of Charlottesville, and it’s one of the most Democratic places in Virginia," he said.

Skelley goes on to say, "You can't write it off entirely. I think there have been instances of independents making things interesting. Obviously, Bob Fenwick ran independent for a couple of times before he ended up running as a Democrat and winning a seat on City Council."

Woodson and the other candidates remain hopeful that they will have the power to get an independent voice on council.

"I believe we do actually have a chance this time. In the last year or so, politics have gotten a little crazy so you never know what's going to happen," said Woodson.

Other independent candidates say they are hopeful people in Charlottesville want "more diversity" in the voices of council.

A fifth independent candidate, Kenny Jackson, plans to announce his bid Friday, May 12. Jackson will also take part in a forum with all the independent candidates at the Haven Day Shelter on Wednesday, May 17.

There are no Republican Party candidates running for City Council at this time.