Bellamy Brown has resigned from Charlottesville’s Police Civilian Oversight Board and launched his campaign for the 54th District’s seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Brown announced his entrance into the quickly crowding Democratic primary race on Saturday at Kardinal Hall to a crowd of 18 people.
“Our group is relatively small,” Brown told the group, “but it’s this personal connection that I really value.”
Charlottesville Mayor Lloyd Snook and Vice-Mayor Juandiego Wade were among Brown’s audience.
Brown, a Marine Corps veteran who currently works as a freelance financial consultant for Albemarle County, previously ran for City Council as an independent in 2019. Brown became the center of a controversy when a Democratic council member contributed to Brown’s council campaign, a move forbidden by the party’s bylaws as Brown was not a Democratic candidate. He came in fourth in the six-way race.
Brown was elected chairman of the Police Civilian Oversight Board in February 2021. He stepped down from the position, but not the board, 11 months later amid internal disputes among members and after calling for the resignation of then-Police Chief RaShall Brackney. Brackney was fired later that year. Then-City Manager Chip Boyles said she was “not a good fit.”
Brackney named Brown, among other city and police officials, in a $10 million wrongful termination lawsuit, which a judge dismissed on Jan. 20. Brown served as a regular member of the oversight board until this past Monday, when he handed his resignation to Chairman Bill Mendez.
Brown told The Daily Progress on Saturday that his resignation was required by the board’s guidelines in order for him to run for the House seat – and not a result of the prior controversies.
As for those scandals, Brown told the crowd on Saturday, “These controversies have not been started by me.”
If elected to the House, Brown said he would prioritize public safety and gun violence.
“Not every police officer is a bad police officer. Most of them go out and serve our community to the best of their ability,” Brown said. “We’ve seen with regard to incidents like Memphis and what have you, we do have some that are not necessarily focused on that.”
Brown was referring to Tyre Nichols, the Memphis man who died on Jan. 10 after sustaining injuries during a traffic stop three days prior. Police body camera footage released by the Memphis Police Department on Friday shows officers beating Nichols during the stop. Five officers have been indicted and jailed in connection with Nichols’ death.
More locally, there were two shootings in Charlottesville within hours of each other in the past week, on Monday night and early Tuesday morning.
“The numbers have increased significantly,” Brown, who grew up in Charlottesville, said of the spate of recent shootings in the area.
He said the violence extends into local schools too.
“We know of incidents where sexual assault has occurred. There have been other challenging incidents in that space,” Brown said.
Parents have reported widespread misconduct at Albemarle County schools including fights, vaping and sexual assault. Parents have told The Daily Progress at least two sexual assaults occurred at Albemarle High School in the past four months. The school division has acknowledged an “incident” occurred involving Albemarle High’s junior varsity football team but did not identify it as sexual assault.
Also high on Brown’s list of legislative goals is “women’s freedom.”
“We’re not just talking about reproductive freedoms. We’re talking about strictly protections for domestic violence and also sexual assault, which goes unmentioned,” Brown said.
Housing affordability, which is a hot topic both locally and nationwide, is also among Brown’s priorities.
Charlottesville and Albemarle County residents have long complained of a scarcity of affordable housing. The median sale price for a house in the area sits at $405,000, according to the most recent report from the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors. Than’s an 11% increase over the prior quarter. And while it’s below the national average of $467,700, according to 2022 Federal Reserve data, it’s still a high price tag in an area where the median income is $63,470, according to 2021 census figures. The annual salary needed to afford a $400,000 home is about $165,000, according to the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, commonly known as Freddie Mac.
Brown proposed three solutions on Saturday.
“One is reducing the shortage of available housing. Two, implementing housing development-focused renters’ tax credits. And three, restructuring your local zoning board,” Brown said.
Brown joins four other Democratic candidates vying for the House seat now held by Democratic Del. Sally Hudson, who is running against Democratic state Sen. Creigh Deeds for a seat in the upper chamber.
Former Charlottesville mayors David Brown and Dave Norris, Albemarle County School Board Chair Katrina Callsen and former Charlottesville Democrats co-Chair Dashad Cooper have filed paperwork to run, and other candidates may still join the race. Brown said he wasn’t worried.
“I know what my ground game is going to be. I know that there’s enough opportunity within that,” Brown said.
At least one person said he thinks Brown is the best person to serve the 54th District.
“He’s amazing. His intent is here,” said Jason Rosales, a childhood friend of Brown’s.
Candidates for the Democratic primary have to file their paperwork by April 6 ahead of the June 20 election.