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2016 Danville City Council Race – Update #1 (Part #2)

In Part #1 of our first update on the 2016 Danville City Council race, we looked at the four incumbents who are going for the five available seats. Now it’s time for Part #2, where we will look at the seven challengers. We’ll look at their strengths & weaknesses then do a quick analysis of where they stand. Let’s make it happen.

(Editor’s Note: Some of the candidates mentioned here are advertisers with SouthsideCentral. All advertisers are told that advertising or not advertising with SouthsideCentral will have no effect on our content nor our opinions.)

Just like in Part #1, we’ve put the names of the seven challengers in the list randomizer and will go in that order. We start with…

Robin Dabney:

  • Strengths: Strong educational background. Well liked by those who know her. Trying to learn as much as possible about council operations. Well spoken. Friendly. Works with youth in her job. Can attract youth voting bloc with her enthusiasm.
  • Weaknesses: Started with no council knowledge. Will have to work hard on campaign financing. Marginal opening statement. Marginal name recognition.
  • Analysis: Dabney has an amazing amount of passion inside her for education. If she can modify her education passion into the things that council can actually do, she’s got a chance to be competitive. If she was able to have gone for a school board seat, she’d have been unstoppable for that election. Dabney has to build her name recognition to stand out in this crowded challenger field.

Trina McLaughlin:

  • Strengths: Well liked in her circle of friends. Works with youth as a GW cheerleading coach. Member of this year’s Emerge Virginia political leadership class. Husband is a sergeant with the Danville Police Department. Moderate name recognition to start. Strong opening statement. Strong potential to attract both black and youth voting blocs.
  • Weaknesses: Has been totally invisible since her announcement. Will have to work hard on campaign financing.
  • Analysis: I’ve known Trina for a long time and love her personality. She knows what’s going on behind the scenes and that’s a strong advantage. Her Emerge Virginia training can be used to run a strong campaign if she applies it. The campaign season is starting to get serious next week and we’ll have to see if she can make herself jump ahead of the other challengers.

Philip Haley:

  • Strengths: Current president of the Danville United Way. His sister is vice-chair of the school board and brother is president of American National Bank. Well connected to the business community. Campaign funding will be no problem. Strong potential with the old white people voting bloc. Campaign is being managed well. Has been deeply involved in all council meetings learning the workings of the budget.
  • Weaknesses: Will have to work hard to get any support from black and youth voting blocs.
  • Analysis: Money talks. With Haley’s funding ability, you’re going to see his name out there way more than other candidates, and that can be enough to make a difference. Haley’s well-spoken and is strong in his financial knowledge. Haley’s ahead of the pack of challengers now. If he wins a council seat, the business community will be the primary reason.

Madison Whittle:

  • Strengths: Strongest business resume of the challenger field. Owns and manages lots of real estate in the area. Extremely knowledgeable about land-use issues. Smart on financial issues. Doing his homework on city’s budget process. Can self-fund his own campaign and has a large donor base. Has the fun type of personality that makes people smile when they meet him. Strong business community support. Strongly managed campaign.
  • Weaknesses: Will have to work hard to get any support from black and youth voting blocs.
  • Analysis: A lot of Whittle’s early support has came from pro-Confederate flag people. If Whittle is plastered with that group being his only support, he can forget about getting any black voting bloc support. Whittle has what it takes to win a council seat on just his business knowledge, and that’s what he needs to focus on as the campaign heats up. He’s got the money to outspend any candidate in this election cycle and he’s not afraid to use it. Whittle is way in front of the challenger group now because he’s started strong. If he keeps that up, he’s a strong favorite.

Thomas Motley:

  • Strengths: He’s ran for council in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
  • Weaknesses: His 2010 campaign was all about electric rates. His 2012 campaign was a bit stronger but not anywhere close to being successful. His 2014 campaign was a total disaster. He has no message. No support from the old white people voting bloc. No support from the business community.
  • Analysis: If you remember the old game show “Press Your Luck”, here’s the best analogy. Thomas Motley has three whammies and zero dollars, so why not spin again? Motley has already made a big mistake by missing the deadline for the Chatham Star-Tribune’s candidate questionnaire, so he’s got to pull it together quickly to even get back into the other challenger’s group. Sadly, it’s looking like the only way that Motley will move up this food chain is to try and take other challengers down. That’s not going to work. I want to see way more from Thomas Motley. He’s got the potential but his campaigns have never lived up to that potential.

Jim Lindley:

  • Strengths: Extremely strong outgoing personality. Works with youth at his job. Well-liked by those who know him. Can appeal highly to youth voting bloc.
  • Weaknesses: Will have to work hard on campaign financing. Poor name recognition. Last-minute candidacy wasn’t able to build any “I’m going to run” buzz, so he’s starting from a flatline. Has a tough learning curve ahead of him to get ready for the heart of the campaign season. Will have to work hard to get any support from the black voting bloc.
  • Analysis: When I started to look at the city council field, I dismissed Lindley almost instantly as a “Who?” type of candidate. Now that I’ve seen him on the campaign trail, I realized I was wrong at least when it comes to personality traits (and that’s important for a big-field race like this one). I’ve got Lindley firmly in the main pack of candidates as of now. He’ll rise or fall because of his handling on the real issues of the campaign.

Sheila Baynes:

  • Strengths: Very good name recognition. Has taken a strong local government interest well before the campaign started. Can appeal to the black voting bloc. Strongly opinionated.
  • Weaknesses: Will have to work hard on campaign financing. Needs to develop stronger business community support. Needs to dominate the eventual discussions on issues.
  • Analysis: Baynes has the knowledge needed to be on council. She’s just got to show the voters that she’s not a Democratic hack with strong partisanship feelings. That’s going to take direct voter contact and impressions. Her campaign presence so far in the race has been reserved, and that’s acceptable because undecided voters aren’t really energized yet. Baynes is firmly in the middle of the pack now and has the potential to rise to the top… or drop to the bottom. If the business community likes her, she’s got a good chance.

And there you go with our overview of the seven challengers. SouthsideCentral is still very confident that all four incumbents are SAFE for reelection due to the large number of challengers. We explained that in the Part #1 article. That means that I believe these seven candidates are fighting for one available seat. We’ve talked about “the pack” often above, so here’s where I’m rating the group of challengers. We’ll do it in the form of a top, middle and bottom shelf and in no particular order on those shelves.

  • Top Shelf: Madison Whittle, Philip Haley
  • Middle Shelf: Robin Dabney, Trina McLaughlin, Jim Lindley, Sheila Baynes
  • Bottom Shelf: Thomas Motley

I’ll go ahead and say it now. Most of these “shelf ratings” are meaningless. They’re based on what’s happened so far and candidates can fly up or sink into oblivion with their actions over the next month.

The race is on and SouthsideCentral will continue to have the best coverage of any media source in the region. Thanks for reading, folks!


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