Richmond City Council remains divided on who should fill empty council seat

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Richmond City Council remained split down the middle Tuesday night on who should fill the seventh council seat.

Eighteen candidates are vying to fill the council seat left vacant after Tom Butt was elected as the city’s mayor in November.

All but one of those candidates made their case Tuesday for why they should fill the empty seat, but none received a majority vote on council. While councilmembers praised the group as viable candidates, they remained divided and will make another attempt at gaining a majority vote at next week’s council meeting.

The three Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) members on council — Eduardo Martinez, Gayle McLaughlin and Jovanka Beckles — want Marilyn Langlois, a fellow RPA member, to fill the seat. That would potentially give the RPA, which is known to vote as a bloc, the power to pass pretty much any agenda item it wants.

The other three non-RPA members on council — Jael Myrick, Mayor Tom Butt, and Nat Bates — are opposed to giving any one group in Richmond that much power on council, arguing that it would stifle democracy and have many of the city’s pressing decisions made in RPA headquarters rather than City Council Chambers.

“I’m not comfortable with voting to appoint frankly a fourth RPA member to this council,” Myrick said, adding that while Langlois is a great candidate she is not the only candidate qualified for the seat.

When it came time to vote, council could not reach majority approval for appointing Langlois, Sheryl Lane, Raquel Donoso, Claudia Jimenez, Kathryn Sibley, Rosemary Corbin, Ben Choi and Dameion King.

If council fails to appoint a candidate by March 13, the decision will be placed in the hand of voters via a special election, which is estimated to cost the city $200,000.

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