Lynchburg City Council candidates running as Democrats in next year’s election will face a spring primary for the first time.
The Lynchburg Democratic Committee (LDC) changed its candidate filing process in November to include a primary for voters to decide which candidate to nominate.
The local primary will be held in conjunction with the presidential primary March 3, said LDC Chairwoman Katie Webb Cyphert, and the election for council candidates pursuing a city ward seat is May 5, 2020.
Traditionally, candidates have not run for city council as Democrats, and the LDC has chosen to endorse certain independent candidates. Webb Cyphert said this is the first year LDC is holding a primary.
The window for candidates to file as a Democrat is open until Dec. 19, but if no one files, the committee will nominate a candidate, she said. Since the window opened Dec. 3, no one has filed with the LDC.
Webb Cyphert said the committee voted to call for a primary, and she feels this process allows voters to have more of a say regarding which candidates they like most.
Lynchburg Republican City Committee Chairman Eric Harrison said his committee has not decided on its nomination method this year but will decide this month.
Harrison said Ward III Councilman Jeff Helgeson filed as a Republican in 2016, and Ward IV Councilman Turner Perrow sits on the committee.
Joan Foster, former Lynchburg mayor and city council member, said she felt the previous LDC process worked best.
“I just think that sometimes … political persuasion is just a little much for what we do,” Foster said. “We do a budget; we work on our infrastructure.”
She added people from all political backgrounds voted for her during her campaigns and she is worried voters might get confused by the addition of a primary.
Foster said she was endorsed by the LDC during her 16 years on city council and running as an independent allowed her to receive support across party lines.
“People felt good knowing ... [my] platform speaks for itself,” she said. “This is my heart; this is not my party. These are the things I’m passionate about.”
The March primary will be administered by the Lynchburg registrar, similar to a general election, Webb Cyphert said. The Lynchburg registrar and electoral board requested $32,585 from the city’s general fund toward the Democratic presidential and city council primary.
Residents who want to vote in the primary will report to their normal precinct, show photo identification and cast their ballots, she said, and absentee voting will be available.
Olivia Johnson covers the city of Lynchburg for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5537.