Bye Bye Baliles

Former Mayoral Candidate Jon Baliles. Photo Courtesy of GayRVA.

Former Mayoral Candidate Jon Baliles. Photo Courtesy of GayRVA.

Avery Gagne

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On Wednesday afternoon, Richmond mayoral candidate Jonathan Baliles announced the suspension of his campaign.

Jonathan Baliles has long held onto the fourth place position in the Richmond mayoral election. In the most recent poll, Baliles was holding out at 6 percent of the vote- a six percent which will be critical in the upcoming election. Local elections like this one typically do not gather large amounts of turnout. In Richmond, there is an entire thirty-eight percent of voters that remain undecided in the election, but the top three candidates remain within five percent of each other. Therefore, these Baliles voters are invested enough to take a solid stance in the election, but now have no man to rally behind.

Baliles stepping away from the election marks a new sense of vigor from the growing Anti-Morrissey movement within the city of Richmond. Joe Morrissey’s career is one marked from scandal: ranging from imprisonment due to statutory rape to disbarment after physical assault. Even now, Morrissey faces accusations that he exposed himself to a former client, and dropped her case when she refused his advances. The sheer amount of scandals has caused many to begin drawing comparisons between Morrissey and disgraced Anthony Weiner, but the key difference is that Morrissey thrives. Currently, he stands at the frontrunner due to the vast amount of candidates running.

With his withdrawal, Baliles issued one key sentiment: that his goal was to prevent Morrissey from winning the election. In his statement, Baliles called upon other candidates to step down as well, saying “The only realistic way our city can ensure that we are moving forward on the morning of November 9 is for other candidates to withdraw and consolidate. Not doing so could result in the outcome so many people fear.” Jack Berry and Levar Stoney both released statements praising Baliles’ work in the city council, but neither appear to be taking any measure towards stepping down. No other candidates have acknowledged the sentiment left behind by Baliles.

Finally, though there is a potential that these former Baliles supporters may greatly change the direction of the race, it is just as likely that they will not. Even though the Baliles campaign appears ready to endorse any candidate that is not Morrissey, their votes may split between Jack Berry and Levar Stoney, and Morrissey could still win. On one hand, many Baliles supporters may run to Jack Berry, the man perceived to have the best chance of winning against Morrissey. However, many Baliles supporters had a distaste not only for Joe Morrissey, but for Jack Berry as well. These supporters may instead flock to Levar Stoney, who has a stronger chance in the fifth district. If Levar attracts these voters, it may split the vote to the point where a run off does not occur, and instead Morrissey is handed the victory.

While the Baliles withdrawal will provide a new degree of uncertainty and urgency to the mayoral race, his sacrifice may fail to make any real impact on the results. If the anti-Morrissey movement truly wishes to succeed, either Jack Berry or Levar Stoney must concede the race. Both candidates poll relatively evenly, they differ by only one percent, but if both continue to run alongside each other, they will allow Morrissey to win key districts like the third, prevent a run off, and hand him the election.

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