Current elected officials sweep City Council primary

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Current elected officials sweep City Council primary
Democratic mayoral nominee Alyia Gaskins (center) with the City Council nominees Abdel Elnoubi (top left), Jacinta Greene (top middle), John Taylor Chapman (top right), Canek Aguirre (bottom left), Kirk McPike (bottom middle) and Sarah Bagley (bottom right). (Photo/Arwen Clemans)
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By James Matheson | jmatheson@alextimes.com and Wafir Salih | wsalih@alextimes.com

John Taylor Chapman, Sarah Bagley, Kirk McPike, Abdel Elnoubi, Canek Aguirre and Jacinta Greene are the Democratic nominees for City Council following the Democratic primary election Tuesday.

All six winners are current elected officials: Chapman, Bagley, McPike and Aguirre are incumbent City Councilors, while Elnoubi and Greene are current members of the Alexandria School Board. Political newcomer Charlotte Scherer finished in seventh place, just 319 votes behind Greene.

The six primary winners will be on the Democratic slate for the Nov. 5 general election, where they will face Republican Celianna Gunderson and Independents Mason Butler and Roy Byrd.

“These election results show our city is unified and happy with the direction we’re moving in,” McPike, who is in his first term on Council, said.

Chapman received the most votes, 10,582, or 11.83% of the votes cast for Council candidates. The four-term councilor expressed gratitude for being chosen again to be on the Democratic slate and emphasized his commitment to addressing infrastructure, supporting small businesses and improving schools if reelected this fall.

*Incumbent. (Data/Virginia Dept. of Elections; Chart/Jessica Kim)

“As I told people throughout the campaign, those things are not issues that are solved overnight, they do need consistent work,” Chapman said. “So, having a Council member be able to serve multiple terms for people to keep improving issues over time I think is necessary, and I’m glad the residents agree.”

Chapman said he was glad to have School Board members Elnoubi and Greene – both current Alexandria City School Board members – join the Democratic slate in this fall’s general election.

“One of the beauties of having those two on Council now is we have an opportunity to peel back the onion on how to address school funding,” Chapman said.

Elnoubi, who won with 8,948 votes at 10.01% of the vote – the most of any non-incumbent councilor – said he was grateful for his win and thanked his supporters and family. He also highlighted that his and Greene’s existing working relationships with the councilors as School Board members will help them transition smoothly to their new roles if elected to Council in November.

“I think the fact that Jacinta and I already have governance experience and a working relationship with the incumbents who got reelected will make it easier for the next Council to hit the ground running,” Elnoubi said.

Greene echoed Elnoubi’s optimism, supporting the past Council in acknowledging its “great” successes. She is optimistic about what the new Council – with two fresh voices to prioritize public education – can accomplish. Greene said she and Elnoubi have not had the opportunity to establish any sort of plans for their tenure.

“I’ve always been a firm believer that a city is only as strong as its public school system,” Greene said.

Resident Boyd Walker, a longtime Democratic activist and son of former City Councilor Lois Walker, said the election demonstrated that School Board experience can boost one’s chances of winning by increasing name recognition and governance skills.

“Jacinta and Abdel therefore have a great grounding to jump right into the work required on council,” Walker said in a text to the Times. “They also both have great histories, one rooted here in Alexandria, and the other from Alexandria, Egypt!”

The Alexandria Democratic Committee hosted a watch party at Pork Barrel BBQ in Del Ray. At 9 p.m., the excitement in Pork Barrel BBQ was palpable as candidates shuffled in and were greeted by cheers and applause from supporters. The Democratic nominee for mayor – who currently has no Republican or Independent challenger – Alyia Gaskins received a roaring welcome when she entered the room.

Upon the confirmation of ballot results, Sandy Marks, the ADC chair, recognized the work of volunteers in the polls and the commitment to Alexandria shown by candidates throughout their campaigns.

“Everyone is here to thank volunteers and candidates …” Marks said. “Nobody can argue that anybody running for City Council doesn’t love the city.”

This dedication was materialized in the thousands of dollars in funds raised and put forth by candidates.

Political newcomer Jesse O’Connell, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, raised the most funds of any candidate at $108,538. O’Connell finished in eighth place, behind the six winners and Scherer. Greene, conversely raised the least of any Council winner, raising $50,599 according to VPAP.

Scherer voiced her satisfaction with the campaign she ran and said her career in politics was not over.

“I’m so proud of Team Charlotte, we knocked [on] 22,000 doors in the final six weeks, we got 22,000 mailers up, we put 220 yard signs and we got three very strong endorsements. … This is not an end, this is just the beginning,” Scherer said.

“I think the biggest surprise of the night has to be both Jesse O’Connell and Charlotte. Jesse for not doing well, and Charlotte for getting within [319] votes [of winning],” resident Benjamin Dawes said at the watch party.

Scherer, who would have become the first transgender Council member in the city’s history, raised $42,867. Meanwhile, the owner of the third-largest share of votes, McPike, raised $103,689 and largest vote-getter Chapman raised $100,000 for the primary.

Aguirre, who will enter the November general election as the second most tenured member on Council, was the second candidate to arrive. He earned the smallest percentage of votes of any incumbent at 9.52%.

Bagley, who won 11.57% of the vote, finishing just 238 votes behind Chapman, said she was excited for the opportunity to work alongside Elnoubi and Greene and combine her experience with their schools knowledge.

School Board Chair Michelle Rief, Ed.D., agreed it would be valuable to have experienced School Board members on Council.

“I think it would be wonderful to have people on the City Council who have experience also being on the School Board and understand the challenges and opportunity of being on the School Board,” Rief said.

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