Richmond Alderman, political ‘outsider’, leads mayoral race

RICHMOND — Without longtime Mayor Tom Butt standing in their way in the Nov. 8 election, two City Council members and a local adviser have entered the race to succeed him as Richmond’s top elected official.

In their bid to replace Butt, who is stepping down later this year after more than two decades in elected office, councilors Eduardo Martinez and Demnlus Johnson III and adviser Shawn Dunning must search for voices in what appears to be a divided city, where municipal lawsuits are contentious Housing developments and controversial public safety decisions often dominated public discourse.

Martinez is a retired West Contra Costa Unified School District teacher who has served on the council since 2014. He is supported by the Richmond Progressive Alliance, a powerful local political group whose supported candidates form the majority of the council

Martinez is proud of his votes to raise the local minimum wage to over $15 an hour, stop the city from sharing information about noncitizens with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and clean up toxic development sites.

Martinez said his “green” priorities for this year are regulating pollutants from the nearby Chevron refinery, tackling hazardous materials at the former AstraZeneca site and leading development along the coast at Point Molate, which is in the middle of a litigation.

“The opposition to big corporate interests will continue, but we will also fight for our vision of Richmond, where our city can showcase itself as the economic and cultural center that we already know it is,” Martinez said during his recent campaign start. “What I want to show is that progressive ideas are compatible with commercial success and that progressive ideas promote safety and growth in our communities.”

If Martinez doesn’t win the race, he’ll be fired along with Butt at the end of the year.

Johnson, who previously served as vice mayor, has voted more conservatively than councilors backed by the Richmond Progressive Alliance, who often back environmental concerns-tarnished housing developments and abstain on votes to cut police budgets.

Johnson, 29, is a California policy and government relations manager at Jumpstart for Young Children and also serves as President of the Black Elected Officials of the East Bay.

Johnson did not respond to interview requests.

Shawn Dunning is a self-proclaimed “outsider” in the race. The 46-year-old consultant says his more than 20 years of experience in “conflict resolution and peacebuilding” at home and abroad is an advantage in a race against candidates that starts with more endorsements and notoriety.

“I see Richmond as a microcosm of the country in many ways,” Dunning said. “We are extraordinarily diverse and yet so separate. I think what is happening is, very well intentioned, that people are working towards change, but the way this is being done is not transgressive and not collaborative. I think that’s why we get such a split, or the perception of one.”

Dunning, who has lived in the city’s North and East Quarters since 2016, said he is preparing to host “hundreds” of listening forums over the coming months to learn more about community needs and concerns before raising his own Priorities and policy recommendations developed. He said he knew decades-old issues like housing, public safety and the economy would make the list.

“I know how naive and foolish it sounds to say that I really can represent anyone, but that’s actually what I’m trying to do,” Dunning said, framing his “experimental campaign” as auditioning for his ability to lead and have complex discussions. “What I think we’ve been missing out on as a city is really reaching out and engaging more people.”

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