The journey from rabble-rousing candidate to sometimes-embattled municipal leader has been a learning experience, and sometimes a bruising one, she said acknowledged during a wide-ranging interview at the downtown offices of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, a local political group she co-founded.
“The mistake that I would say I made is that I overestimated the willingness of the full council to engage productively, in a productive and principled debate of divergent ideas,” said McLaughlin. “I really didn’t expect so much blocking of good ideas, blocking of good policy.”
As a challenger in 2006, McLaughlin proved a political rarity — a candidate who campaigned on raising taxes, at least for large corporations. She also pledged to re-hire laid off city workers and launch jobs programs for local youths.
Amazingly to some City Hall watchers, it clicked. Thanks to a three-way race, McLaughlin squeaked into office with just over one-third of the vote, giving her the victory over two-term incumbent Irma Anderson. The Richmond Globe newspaper ran a headline declaring that Anderson’s “Legacy yields to McLaughlin’s progressive ideals.”
As America’s first Green Party mayor of a city of more than 100,000 residents, McLaughlin was instantly a national figure. Weeks later, she would share the stage with Green Party goliath Ralph Nader at an event bristling with progressive luminaries in San Francisco.