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Progressive Voices Enter Richmond Elections Following Weeks Of Police Protests

photo of Alexsis rodgers and Tavarris Spinks
Alexsis Rodgers (left) and Tavarris Spinks (right) both recently announced they are entering local races in Richmond. (Photos courtesy of their campaigns)

As Richmond sees days of protests and civil unrest in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, two progressive activists have announced they’ll run for local office. 

Alexsis Rodgers announced last week she’ll make a run for Richmond mayor, and Tavarris Spinks now says he is running for City Council in the second district. The second district seat is being vacated by Councilwoman Kim Gray who is also running for mayor. 

While Rodgers and Spinks say they’ve been mulling a run for local office, both were spurred on by the anti-police brutality movement that has unfolded on the city’s streets.

Rodgers said she finalized her decision to run for mayor after marching with protesters and providing support to people who were arrested.

“After all of that, I decided that it’s clear to me that the current mayor’s administration did not feel the urgency that the community is feeling around changes that are needed,” Rodgers said. “We need someone who is going to be proactive in policymaking, progressive, and responsive to the community needs — listening to them every day, not just to folks who are always in the halls of City Hall.”

Spinks, who currently works as a healthcare IT project manager, was born and raised in Richmond. He said his experience living in the East End and The Fan District is a valuable perspective he can bring to Richmond City Council. 

“I’ve seen problems in some of the poorest communities, and I’ve seen problems in some of the richest communities,” Spinks said. “There’s a lot that crosses district lines and I want to do the best I can for the people of this district and for the people of this city." 

Spinks will face off against Green City Commission member Katherine Jordan for the second district seat.

Rodgers has been working in the activism and policymaking space for around eight years now. She is currently the Virginia state director for the group Care In Action, which advocates for legislation that benefits domestic workers like nannies and hotel maids. She was also the policy director for then-Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam.

While she understands how to navigate the structures of state and local government, Rodgers said she also wants to uplift more community voices.

“I think what we see right now is an unfortunate dismissal of the power of community organizing and the power of protest,” Rodgers said. “I often remind folks, ‘We need every single tool in our advocacy tool kit to make the change that we want possible in our city.'”

Like Rodgers, Spinks has also worked in the advocacy and organizing space for a while. Between 2012 and 2015 Spinks served as the head of the Metro Richmond Area Young Democrats. He’s also served as a ward chair for the Richmond City Democratic Committee and volunteered on over a dozen political campaigns.

In addition to funneling more funding to Richmond’s poor-performing public schools, Spinks said he wants to be a part of turning the outrage over police brutality into policy changes.

“We’ve got to start somewhere, and there seems to be a groundswell of support to do something about it, at least in this city,” he said.

In the mayoral race, Rodgers has received backing and support from the progressive organizing group Richmond For All. The organization collected nearly 1,000 voter signatures to get her on the ballot in just four days. Rodgers also said she raised more than $35,000 in the first 24 hours following her announcement. 

All of Richmond’s elected offices will be on the ballot November 3.

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