Council members support House candidates

Published 9:22 pm Monday, August 15, 2016

Several members of Suffolk City Council have announced their support of candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination for the 77th District in the House of Delegates.

Vice Mayor Leroy Bennett and Councilman Don Goldberg are supporting former Chesapeake City Councilman Cliff Hayes. Mayor Linda T. Johnson, Lue Ward and Curtis Milteer are listed as supporting Suffolk native and business owner LeOtis Williams on his website.

Voting will take place in a “firehouse primary” this afternoon.

Email newsletter signup

Bennett, Goldberg and Ward all said they know, like and respect both men but came out in support of their choice for different reasons.

For Bennett and Goldberg, it was because Hayes called them and asked.

“I’ve known Mr. Hayes for 25 or 30 years,” said Goldberg, who used to be on the Chesapeake Economic Development Authority. “He’s a very fine young man. He called me and asked me if I would support him.”

Goldberg said he granted his support after having a lengthy conversation about Hayes’ goals and positions on various issues.

“Mr. Williams is a fine gentleman,” Goldberg said. “I like him very much. I’m very fond of him. But Mr. Hayes is the one who called me, and he’s the one I had a chance to talk to about his plans.”

Bennett also said he granted his support to Hayes after Hayes called him seeking it. The two have been on some boards together, Bennett said.

“Nobody has asked me about supporting LeOtis,” Bennett added.

Mayor Linda T. Johnson called Williams “one of the most incredible men I’ve ever known.”

“He’s done incredible things for our community,” she said, while adding that was not to disparage the other candidate. “LeOtis Williams is someone who deserves the support of the Suffolk people.”

Johnson also said that with all the redistricting that has happened at the state level, “The opportunity to have a Suffolk person would be wonderful.”

Ward said he is supporting Williams because of the many things Williams has done in the community, including a turkey giveaway he holds every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

“I felt for somebody to take on that challenge without even somebody asking you to — he just goes and does it because of the need — that’s a special person,” Ward said.

“He has been involved all around in our city with different events. He employs a lot of people, and that means a lot to the people who work for him. Some of the things he does are remarkable as a young man who does so much for the city.”

Milteer also said he was supporting Williams because of his community service.

“He has been a vital help to the Suffolk community,” Milteer said. “He has increased employment, plus he has given away needed food items and clothing. His contribution to society in this city is worth him being promoted.”

None of the five said they were concerned the different candidates supported will cause any division on Suffolk City Council.

“I don’t see it affecting anything that’s going on,” Ward said. “In the long run, it’s who you think will be the best for the city of Suffolk right now.”

“Everybody has a right to support who they believe will best serve the people,” Milteer said.

The 77th District includes parts of Suffolk and Chesapeake. The seat is vacant due to Delegate Lionell Spruill Sr. stepping down to run for the state Senate seat vacated by Kenny Alexander, who was elected mayor of Norfolk earlier this year.

Voting in the “firehouse primary” will take place Tuesday 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.