COURTHOUSE – City Councilmember Guy Tower, seeking appointment to the Beach District seat this spring, said he wouldn’t run in the special election to keep the seat.
“I do not intend to run for the seat in November,” he wrote in his application.
That has changed. Tower on Monday, July 1, announced his candidacy in the special election on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
“I initially said that I did not intend to run,” Tower said in a statement. “Since that time, a multitude of citizens have encouraged me to run for the seat.”
The City Council appointed the retired attorney and mediator to fill the seat that became open after a panel of judges in March vacated the November 2018 election of David Nygaard due to a residency issue. Tower was to serve on the City Council until the result of a special election is determined in November.
“This is a defining moment for Virginia Beach,” Tower said in his statement. “Our city is in the process of considering and negotiating complex transactions and implementing strategic plans that will have a profound impact, hopefully for the better, on the lives of all our citizens and of future generations to come. I offer my leadership and unique perspective to do the work needed to build a more transparent and inclusive city government.”
Tower’s announcement now sets up a contest with at least three other candidates, including fellow Councilmember Rosemary Wilson, who presently holds an at-large seat on the council but is running for the Beach District seat in the special election.
Candidates have until mid-August to file paperwork to run in the Beach District and another special election for the City Council seat in the Rose Hall District that was vacated by Shannon Kane when her family moved from the district. Councilmember Michael Berlucchi, who was appointed temporarily to the Rose Hall seat, has filed paperwork to run in that special election.
In the Beach District race, Wilson, a realtor, has served on the City Council since 2000 and previously served on the School Board. She said she decided to run in the district because she has an understanding of a “complicated” section of the city that includes much of the the tourism industry, Naval Air Station Oceana and communities that have experienced significant flooding.
“I really felt they could benefit from my experience and previous track record,” she said of district residents.
“I think I’m the most qualified person to help the district move along,” she added.
Two other candidates have filed paperwork to run in the Beach District race. They are Brandon Hutchins, a Navy veteran who is a network support consultant with Anthem and owns a salon with his wife, and Courtney Stowe, who was a teacher for nearly a decade and has worked in the pharmaceutical industry.
Stowe could not be reached for comment this past week. She operates a wellness coaching business, according to a biography posted to a campaign social media account in June.
Hutchins, reached by telephone, said he is concerned about issues such as the result of the disparity study in Virginia Beach and ensuring veterans have opportunities when they leave military service here.
“I want people to be aware there’s someone not attached to special interests,” he said.
Richard “R.K.” Kowalewitch, who ran for the seat this past November, placing third, has said he is running in the special election, though he has not yet filed paperwork.
“I’m in, buddy,” he told a reporter, calling the election essentially a continuation of last year’s race and adding that he believes he would have won the Beach District seat without Nygaard running then.
One person who will not be on the ballot in November is former Councilmember John Uhrin, the then-incumbent who lost narrowly to Nygaard and then launched the legal challenge that led to judges determining Nygaard had not been eligible.
“I don’t see myself running,” Uhrin said on Monday, July 1.
“You can take me off the list of the ones on the ballot in November,” he added.
Additionally, John Coker, who ran last year before dropping out late in the race, said he won’t seek the seat again this year.
“I am not going to run in 2019,” Coker said during an interview this past week. “I like the fact that we have a lot of names in there, though.”
Nygaard in April announced he would not run in the special election in November. A family emergency had forced him to move back outside the Beach District, Nygaard told The Independent News at the time.
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