Two Dems run for 77th

Published 10:02 pm Thursday, August 11, 2016

Two men, one a Suffolk native well known for his charitable endeavors and the other a former Chesapeake City Councilman, will contest the Democratic nomination for the 77th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates next week.

LeOtis Williams, a business owner from Suffolk, said this week he felt like it was the right time to run.

“I felt this was my time to be of service not only to the people of Suffolk but also to the 77th District,” he said.

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His opponent, Cliff Hayes, was born and raised in the South Norfolk and Indian River sections of Chesapeake.

“Serving this district is something I have a vested interest in — seeing this area prosper,” he said.

The 77th District seat was formerly occupied by Lionell Spruill Sr. Spruill, who has been a member of the General Assembly for 22 years, stepped down from the 77th District seat to run for the Senate seat vacated by Kenny Alexander, who was elected mayor of Norfolk earlier this year.

Williams grew up in Suffolk and lives in a South Suffolk neighborhood home that used to belong to his grandmother. He owns two businesses, including a lawn service and an investment company, that employ 26 people.

Williams, known for giving away thousands of turkeys to area residents on the Saturday before Thanksgiving every year, said he feels he can relate to people.

“I’m very well grounded as it relates to the people and their issues and the concerns, and I just want to make a difference,” Williams said. “I’m a hometown young man, and I just want to get back to the basics — education, affordable housing, employment. Some of those things have been neglected in the past.”

Williams also said he hopes to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“I just want to take a chance, and hopefully the voters in the 77th District will give me the chance,” Williams said.

He said he has been encouraged by the reaction of locals who have learned he is running.

“There’s been a lot of positive feedback,” he said. “A lot of people have said, ‘About time.’ They’re ready to do whatever it takes to get me elected.”

Williams is a graduate of John Yeates High School and Paul D. Camp Community College. He has served on the boards of the Salvation Army and the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, where he was vice-chair.

Hayes, a Chesapeake City Councilman from 2004 to 2012, works in information technology at Norfolk Public Schools.

“There’s a lot hanging in the balance with the replacement of Delegate Spruill,” he said.

Hayes said he will focus on public safety, economic development, education, transportation and affordable housing.

“I think it’s important to make sure we have safe communities,” he said. “Nothing else matters if the community isn’t safe.”

He said he hopes to make sure communities get the support they need from the state in order to support their first responders.

“We want to do all we can to protect those who serve our communities,” he said, adding that he led the effort, as a member of City Council, to make Chesapeake the first locality in the state to raise the retirement pay of public safety personnel.

In the realm of education, he said he will look to support teachers and other school employees and make college affordable.

“As hard as they work and as much as they contribute and as valuable as their role in developing people is, I think we need to do all we can for our teachers and support personnel in K-12,” he said.

He also said he will work to support transportation in Hampton Roads.

“It’s a hallmark for us, and we need to do everything we can to enhance the quality of life for our citizens,” he said. “We have to do all we can to support the transportation network.”

Hayes is a graduate of Oscar Smith High School and Norfolk State University and has a master’s degree in business administration from Cambridge College.

Voting in the “firehouse primary” will take place Aug. 16 at two locations. Suffolk voters will vote at East Suffolk Recreation Center, 138 S. Sixth St. Chesapeake voters will vote at St. Joseph A.M.E. Zion Church, 1540 Atlantic Ave. Voting will be from 3 to 7 p.m.

Another man with a Suffolk connection is the Democratic nominee for the 93rd District, which includes parts of Newport News, Williamsburg, and James City and York counties.

Michael Mullin, a Suffolk prosecutor, is the nominee for the seat currently held by Montgomery Mason. Mason has stepped down to seek the Senate seat of the 1st District, which includes part of North Suffolk. The seat was vacated earlier this year by the death of John Miller.