Longtime progressive activist Alexsis Rodgers says she’s running for mayor to bring equity to Richmond’s impoverished and minority communities. Rodgers emphasizes that doesn’t mean she’ll leave behind other parts of the city in the process.
“We all thrive and we all succeed when more of us are able to have access to economic opportunity, when more of us are able to be healthy, and lead healthy lives,” Rodgers told The Virginia Star.
Rodgers’ parents taught her to work hard, something they modeled for her until her father lost his job in the Great Recession. “[There were] a lot of young people out of work and willing to work for a lot less than we could afford. He didn’t have a college degree so it was pretty difficult for him to compete in such a crowded job market.”
“That’s when I realized that politics were something we should pay attention to and economic policies could have an impact on working families’ lives,” Rodgers said,
“I basically took that worldview into my career, focusing on policies that I believe in,” Rodgers said.
Since graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, she’s been the Director of Communications for the Virginia branch of Planned Parenthood and the Policy Director for the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. According to her official bio, she is currently the Director of the Virginia branch of Care In Action, a non-profit helping domestic workers like cleaners and nannies.
Rodgers announced her candidacy for mayor on June 5, in the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s death as unrest spread through Richmond.
“I decided to run for mayor this year because I was really frustrated with the Mayor’s response to calls for criminal justice reform,” Rodgers said. She said she shares the frustration of police officers concerned with political hirings and firings in the police department.
“My focus is, we’ve got to make sure that our law enforcement are put in situations that they’re prepared for and that they’re trained to handle.” Rodgers said officers aren’t the best people to handle many mental health crises. As part of her policies she wants to see increased funding and training for mental health response teams and the implementation of a mental health alert system like the General Assembly is considering. She also wants civilian review boards to examine policies and police tactics.
“Racial equity also means making sure that we are creating the conditions to make sure everyone has access to green space and grocery stores in their own communities,” Rodgers said. “Because of the way that Richmond has been segregated by old policies from the redlining era, there are neighborhoods that overall have concentrated poverty.”
Rodgers advocates for affordable housing, including multi-family units and tax-payer funded programs to keep rent reasonable. She’s calling for school reforms, and recognizes the childcare burden that COVID-19-era virtual learning is putting on low-income families. Rodgers said inconsistent, politically motivated federal guidance makes school decisions difficult.
She said, “I do want to make sure we get back in to schools as quickly as possible, but only when it’s safe.”
“We have to follow the science,” Rodgers said when asked if she would support another business shut-down if COVID-19 worsened. “I certainly don’t want us to have to go backwards and shut down business, but we’ve got to make sure that we’re doing everything to keep Richmonders safe.”
“I think what most businesses were most frustrated by during [the] phased reopening was a lack of coordination and communication, and I think we’ve seen that as a recurrent theme in this administration,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers has consistently polled around 15 percent, behind incumbent Mayor Levar Stoney at around 36 percent, and behind Councilmember Kim Gray, whose polling has fluctuated from 33 percent to 16 percent. However, Rodgers said, “We’ve got the most individual contributions from any mayor’s race in any election for mayor in the city of Richmond. We have literally thousands of people, chipping in wherever they can even during an economic crisis.”
“That shows the grassroots support for our campaign,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers needs to use those supporters to reach the large number of undecided voters. “We’re seeing that a lot of people are still undecided. I think that speaks pretty clearly that people are not interested in continuing to support the current administration. They’ve got four years of a record from Mayor Stoney, they have 12 or 15 years of a record from Kim Gray, and they’re undecided. That means they’re looking for change,” Rodgers said.
“What we have really been trying to drive home is that Mayor Stoney has lost support over his administration.” Rodgers said Stoney’s policies have been self serving. “And this year, when the political tides turned, and all of the sudden there was a popular idea to put forward criminal justice and social justice reform issues, that’s when he took initiative.”
Rodgers said, “We need that kind of energy, that leadership that wants to do best for the city every single day, not on election year when you realize that you’re about to lose your seat because you haven’t been doing the work for four years.”
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