Manassas has its first entrant in the 2020 mayoral race. First-term Council Member Michelle Davis-Younger, a Democrat, threw her hat in the ring Dec. 8.
“I have listened to the concerns of the citizens as well as received encouragement from others,” she wrote in the announcement on Facebook.
Davis-Younger became the first African American woman to sit on the city council after winning election in 2018, the top vote-getter of six candidates vying for three seats.
Davis-Younger runs a human resources and employment consulting business and is a lifelong Manassas resident who attended Stonewall Jackson High School and holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Strayer University.
In an interview, she told InsideNoVa that she’s earned a reputation as a “bridge builder” and that with Manassas’s rapidly changing demographics, it’s time for a change in city leadership.
“It’s about Manssas having changed, and it needs — I think — a different look of leadership to reflect what it has become,” Davis-Younger said. “If I can be the one to lead it, I’m up for it.”
Third-term mayor Hal Parrish II, a Republican, said that he hasn’t decided whether or not he’ll run again. He said any announcement would be “premature” with the election almost 11 months away. If another Democrat enters the race, the party’s Manassas committee will decide whether a party caucus or primary vote will determine the nominee.
Cheryl Macias, the committee’s co-chair, said the party’s excited to finally have a Democrat on the ballot for mayor.
“I’ve lived here since 1990 and when you look at the demographics and the landscape of the population, we’re ecstatic to see a Democrat come up, and somebody who’s gone through the ranks, been elected and went through a caucus to be our nominee [for council],” Macias said.
Davis-Younger would be the first Democratic challenger to Parrish since he took office in 2009, but the political make-up of the council and the city at large has shifted significantly since then. In 2018, the year Davis-Younger won election, Republicans lost control of the city council for the first time in its history (the city was incorporated in 1975). The city has also become reliably Democratic in statewide and national elections the last few cycles, and election day 2020 figures to see a high turnout with the White House and Congress up for grabs.
Parrish was appointed to the city council in 1993 and won three straight council elections until becoming mayor. In 2015, he launched an unsuccessful bid for the state senate, falling to Jeremy McPike, a Democrat who won re-election in November without a GOP challenger.
“My service has never been about me, it’s always been about this community that I love,” Parrish said. “One way or the other, I’m going to do what I think is right for the community and that will come before any other thought that I have.”
Davis-Younger also pointed out that even if her run is unsuccessful, she’ll retain her council seat, which isn’t up for re-election until 2022. In that sense, she said, “It’s a win-win.”
She said that the defining issues of a potential general election campaign have yet to be determined, but that she’ll primarily be focused on making the city more welcoming to businesses, improving the communication between the city council and the school board and reaching out to a growing Hispanic and Spanish-speaking population, both in public schools and elsewhere.
“I’ve always considered myself and have been called by many the bridge builder,” Davis-Younger said. “They see the difference in me, that I don’t do [political] party … I go with what feels right and is best for the city.”