By Chip Lauterbach, contributor
Harrisonburg Democrats chose Dany Fleming and Monica Robinson as the party’s nominees for a pair of City Council seats in the November election, while the only sitting council member running for re-election, Chris Jones, finished third by a single vote.
According to the results announced after the party recounted the results, Fleming garnered 191 votes, while Robinson placed second with 156 votes, nudging her just past Jones’ total of 155 votes. Community activist Paloma Saucedo came in fourth with 106 votes.
Robinson’s win by one vote over Jones offered a dramatic finish to the caucus. A former teacher, Robinson has served three terms as the president of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham NAACP. She also serves as the executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Black Heritage Project. She said she wants to focus on encouraging higher wages for workers, creating opportunities for affordable housing and addressing climate issues.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity, I’m excited for the opportunity to run and speak for the people.” Robinson said. “I’m honored to have been chosen by the people.”
Fleming, a former chair of the Harrisonburg City School Board and the current chair of the Harrisonburg Redevelopment Housing Authority, said he believed his years of experience will help him be a natural fit on the council. Fleming specifically emphasized affordable housing issues and addressing homelessness.
“I feel good with the work I have put in during this unpredictable process,” Fleming said. “The great thing about Harrisonburg is that we are not a toxic city, we are a city that knows how to dialogue and discuss across differences and solve problems that way.”
City Democrats voted on paper ballots Saturday at the Harrisonburg Democratic Committee headquarters on Market Street. Alleyn Harned, the committee’s chairman, praised the turnout and expressed optimism for the upcoming election.
“Excitement has been very high for the turnout today. We had perfect weather. We have a lot of informed folks coming out to have their voices heard,” Harned said. “Folks have had opportunities to talk to the candidates outside and that was very valuable to the democratic process.”
Two four-year terms on the council are up for grabs in November. Jones was seeking a third term, having first been elected to the council in 2014. Vice Mayor Sal Romero decided not to run a second team. Now both of those seats will be open in the November election.
No Republican candidate has emerged, but so far one independent, Marshall Orenic, has announced his candidacy, as The Citizen has reported.
While Fleming and Robinson locked up the Democratic nominations for the two four-year council terms, the November election will also decide who will fill out the last two years of George Hirschmann’s term. Hirschmann, the council’s lone independent, resigned abruptly May 25 for health reasons, and the council on Thursday tapped former council member Richard Baugh to serve in his place until the special election.
Harned confirmed that the Harrisonburg Democratic Committee will meet Monday to finalize a date in July for the caucus to decide the party’s nominee for that special election.
Baugh has yet to indicate if he plans to run in the special election caucus or not.
As the incumbent, Jones could choose to run in the special election. Jones didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday night.
Paloma Saucedo was unable to attend the caucus today due being with family to attend a memorial service of her son who died on Memorial Day. She thanked her supporters for their understanding.
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