Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin won’t seek re-election; RPA’s Sue Wilson to run for District 5 seat

Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin won’t seek re-election; RPA’s Sue Wilson to run for District 5 seat
Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin spoke at the new farmer's market at Marina Bay Park on Sunday, April 7, 2024. Photo/ Soren Hemmila

Councilmember Gayle McLaughlin announced this morning she will not seek re-election to the Richmond City Council this year and is “passing the torch” to Richmond Progressive Alliance member Sue Wilson.

McLaughlin was first elected to the Richmond City Council in 2004. Two years later, she was elected as mayor, making Richmond the largest city in the country to have a Green Party mayor.

Sue Wilson protested the Craneway Pavilion Pickleball facility on March 23, 2024. Photo/ Linda Hemmila

“Today, after 20 years of civic and community work, I pause with pride, joy and satisfaction, and I step aside. I have fought the good fight, I have upheld my integrity and I have kept the faith in our people,” McLaughlin wrote in a statement.

McLaughlin said new generations are taking charge. Young people have been at the forefront of mobilizations against the genocide of Palestinians and against the corporate and foreign control of our government and resources.

“The next generation of Americans is here, and they are kicking into high gear the conscience of America. I celebrate our collective efforts to bend the long arc of the moral universe, inch by inch, towards justice,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin touted Wilson’s analytical skills and understanding of the issues she said would benefit Richmond greatly. 

“I am happy to endorse my friend, supporter, and fellow progressive activist and corporate-free candidate Sue Wilson,” McLaughlin wrote. “Sue is a community organizer with the Richmond Progressive Alliance with strong social, environmental, organized-labor and economic justice credentials.”

In recent weeks, McLaughlin’s lack of paperwork on the Richmond city website and Wilson’s involvement in protesting the Craneway Pavilion Pickleball facility led to speculation that a council bid was in the works.

Locals protest opening of Craneway Pavilion pickleball facility
Richmond residents, dressed as Rosie the Riveters, protested the opening of the Craneway Pavilion pickleball facility at today’s opening day event. Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon representing women who took on factory and shipyard jobs during World War II. Pickleball is a sport involving two or four

Wilson, a Richmond Annex resident, said she believes she can do more good for Richmond by getting out of her comfort zone and running for office. Since moving to Richmond in 2008, Willson said she has worked behind the scenes to contribute to some of the changes that have made Richmond better. 

“Gayle inspired me to volunteer for her and for other progressive leaders and causes in Richmond, which I have done for 10 years. So it means a lot to me that Gayle trusts me to carry on her work on City Council,” Wilson wrote. “I know that almost everything I like about Richmond is the result of someone’s effort. A person, or more often, a group of people, did the work to pass rent control or set up a seed library or organize a farmer’s market or parade.”

According to her campaign website, Willson earned a  B.A. at the University of Michigan before earning a PhD in Socio-Cultural Anthropology at UC Berkeley.

Wilson volunteered for a labor union and became a UAW organizer. Inspired by collective action, she worked for the California Nurses Association and later managed staff for the Union of American Physicians and Dentists. She transitioned to full-time consultant work in 2018, continuing to offer training, communications, and technical services to labor unions and non-profits while advising political candidates and causes. 

Wilson said many things she appreciates about Richmond are at risk of disappearing if not properly cared for.

“If our leaders don’t take action to expand affordable housing and protect existing renters, will working people be able to stay here?" Wilson said. "If we don’t use city resources to expand the creation of union jobs in clean industries, as well as training for those jobs, will our kids have to leave to find work as they become adults?"

Wilson and her husband, Dan Lawson, a Richmond Community Police Review Commissioner, live in the Annex with their daughter.

Fellow Richmond Annex resident Daniel Nathan-Heiss is also running for the District 5 seat.

Richmond Annex resident hopes to win a council seat in November
Daniel Nathan-Heiss thinks the Richmond City Council should prioritize its residents and that the only path to “Pride” and “Purpose” is through hard work. Nathan-Heiss, who recently pulled papers to get on the ballot this fall, said he hopes to be the next District 5 representative because he feels, “We

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