The race for three open seats on the Charlottesville City Council is heating up. Two new candidates officially kicked off their campaigns last week and three more went public with their plans to run.

Michael Payne has worked on statewide affordable housing issues as a project manager for Habitat Virginia. He also volunteers with the Charlottesville Low-Income Housing Coalition and Indivisible Charlottesville, a local progressive advocacy organization.

“If we can ground the work of City Council in community organizing, Charlottesville can become a statewide model for how to fight for progressive change at the local level,” Payne said.

Don Gathers, a co-founder of Charlottesville Black Lives Matter, was expected announce his own candidacy with Payne at Kardinal Hall on Tuesday. But Gathers decided on Tuesday to delay the start of his campaign, citing recurring health issues from a recent heart attack. Payne and Gathers both are supported by Progressives for Cville, a new political action committee.

“Both Michael and Don have had all of our backs at the dais in City Council [meetings], speaking out on our behalf,” said Jalane Schmidt, political director for Progressives for Cville. “We want progressives on the dais.”

Sena Magill, a former employee of Region Ten and PACEM, launched her campaign for City Council on Jan. 8. Credit: Credit:

Sena Magill worked at Region Ten for 11 years, ending her tenure as director of intensive services in 2010. She currently serves on the board of directors of the Region Ten Community Services Board. After leaving Region Ten, Magill oversaw homeless shelters and re-housing initiatives for PACEM while operating a vintage clothing business.

“I’m tired of seeing my home in the news for all these negative reasons,” Magill said at her campaign launch event on Wednesday in CitySpace. “I want us to be seen as innovators and creative thinkers and problem solvers.”

Magill was personally affected by violence at the Unite the Right rally in 2017. Her husband, Tyler, had a stroke after he allegedly was hit on the neck with a torch by one of the white supremacists who marched across the University of Virginia’s grounds on Aug. 11, 2017.

Magill and Payne both said that expanding Charlottesville’s affordable housing stock will be one of their priorities if they are elected. Payne said he hopes to change the city’s Capital Improvement Program to further prioritize affordable housing. He said he also would explore the possibility of issuing bonds or raising taxes to pay for new housing projects.

“Affordable housing can drive economic growth; I don’t see it as an either/or,” Payne said. [Building affordable housing] can be a way to build family wealth,” Payne said.

Magill said she would like to streamline Charlottesville’s rezoning process for accessory dwelling units and study possible incentives for homeowners to rent out these units at affordable rates.

“We need to be addressing all sorts of areas of affordable housing, from 15 percent [of the area median income] to 80 percent AMI, from rentals to homeownership,” Magill said.

Charlottesville defense attorney Lloyd Snook on Thursday announced his intent to run for the City Council as a Democrat In a Jan. 10 Facebook post, Snook said his main goals are to guide the implementation of Charlottesville’s forthcoming comprehensive plan; to disrupt the city’s “pipeline to prison”; and “to help restore some semblance of order at the top” of city government. Snook plans to hold a campaign launch party at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Bashir’s Taverna on the Downtown Mall.

Brian Pinkston, a project manager at the University of Virginia, has formed a campaign committee to run for Council as a Democrat. He is a former chairman of the board of directors of the Region Ten Community Services Board.

John Edward Hall, a design engineer, is gearing up for his second run for City Council as an independent. He finished fifth among five candidates in the 2017 election.

If more than three Democratic candidates declare by March 28, a citywide primary to select the party’s nominees will be held on June 11. Independent candidates must declare by June 11. The 2019 general election will be held Nov. 5. Incumbent Democrats Wes Bellamy, Kathy Galvin and Mike Signer have not announced plans for re-election.


Josh Mandell graduated from Yale in 2016 and has been recognized by the Virginia Press Association with five awards for education writing, health, science and environmental writing and multimedia reporting.