Eight candidates running for the 5th District City Council seat in a special election participated in a forum at the Patrick Henry School of Science & Arts, Thursday 9/12/2019. Thad Williamson speaks during the forum.

Five candidates vying for the 5th District seat on the Richmond City Council have condemned one of their opponents’ use of a sample ballot they branded “beyond unethical.”

Distributing the ballot in question were supporters of Thad Williamson, a University of Richmond professor and former adviser to Mayor Levar Stoney who is running for the seat.

The ballot in question mirrored the design of sample ballots distributed by the Richmond City Democratic Committee. Williamson’s name is shown on the ballot his supporters handed out to voters even though the local committee did not endorse a candidate in the special council election.

“This is beyond unethical, and these types of misleading tactics have their roots in voter deception that has disproportionately affected African American voters,” stated a joint new release five of his opponents signed and issued Tuesday afternoon.

Signing the release were Nicholas Da Silva, Stephanie Lynch, Jer’Mykeal McCoy, Robin Mines and Chuck Richardson.

The sample ballot Williamson’s supporters distributed included a disclosure that he had paid for and authorized it. Eric Payne, Williamson’s campaign manager, said he used a template to make the ballot in question, which he said was intended to “highlight that [Williamson] is a Democrat.”

Payne, a member of the Richmond City Democratic Committee’s executive team, said he disagreed with the charge that the ballot was unethical.

“I’ve put out similar sample ballots for nonpartisan candidates before and never gotten any pushback,” he said. “I can’t speak for any candidates, but maybe some of them wish they had a sample ballot.”

Seven candidates in the contest are vying to replace Councilman Parker Agelasto, who will resign on Nov. 30. The winner will serve out the remaining 13 months of the current council term, representing one of the most diverse districts in the city.

It encompasses the neighborhoods of Randolph, Oregon Hill, Woodland Heights, Swansboro, Byrd Park, Maymont, Carytown and part of the Fan District.

Polls close at 7 p.m.

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