By Bridget Manley, publisher
The Harrisonburg Democratic Committee finalized plans to hold a firehouse primary Saturday, May 2, to elect nominees for the Harrisonburg city council.
This firehouse primary process, also known as an unassembled caucus, will last from 1- 5 p.m. at 850 W. Market St. and will allow Harrisonburg Democratic voters to select the three candidates to move on to represent the Democratic Party in November’s general election when three of the five city council seats are on the ballot.
Those seats now are held by Mayor Deanna Reed and city councilmen George Hirschmann and Richard Baugh. The current make-up of the council has four Democrats and one independent (Hirschmann).
So far, Hirschmann and Baugh haven’t officially announced their reelection plans.
But Reed officially kicked off her re-election bid in front of City Hall on Friday. Reed, who first ran for council in 2016, has served two consecutive terms as mayor. The mayor is selected by the members of council each January after a general election.
Meanwhile, two other Democrats have announced their campaigns for city council so far. JMU student and local activist Luciano Benjamin announced his candidacy with a press conference Feb. 7, while local architect and business owner Charles Hendricks declared his campaign in January with a Facebook announcement.
City Democratic Party leaders are asking that any other Democrats interested in running for ciy council announce their intention to run by midnight March 23.
Reed said Friday she hopes more citizens become engaged in the process and vote in the firehouse primary.
“The firehouse [primary] is fine with me. I think it will be a different opportunity for people,” Reed said.
Harrisonburg Democratic Committee Chair Alleyn Harned said the committee considered the idea of an unassembled caucus this winter and feel this will give city Democrats a voice in who they will nominate.
“Democrats discussed doing an unassembled caucus for candidate selection in our January and February monthly meetings,” Harned said. “One purpose is to allow more Democrats to be involved in candidate selection by spreading vote time out. We are not as limited by space. [Another] purpose is to nominate candidates for three seats for city council as Democrats.”
Mayor Reed said Friday that she plans to continue working on low barrier shelter solutions for those experiencing homelessness year-round and building the new high school in the city.
Reed also made note of the diversity currently on council and in city administration.
“I’m really proud of the diversity on city council,” Reed said. “This is the most people of color we have had on city council. Our leadership, along with our city manager, our police chief, director of transportation, director of parks and rec, and our assistant police chief are all people of color. That is huge for Harrisonburg.”
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