Billboard for Norfolk mayoral candidate causes stir

(Photo courtesy of Curtis Akers/WAVY)

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Three well qualified candidates are trying to beat each other to be the next mayor of Norfolk; it’s the most hotly contested local political race this election season.

Current Mayor Paul Fraim has not officially endorsed anyone, but could that be changing? Could the answer be in a new billboard high above Gray’s Pharmacy, at the corner of Hampton Boulevard and 48th street across from Old Dominion University?

You can’t miss it. A picture of Mayor Fraim, his name not mentioned, but the words ‘Alexander for Mayor.’ on the sign. Everyone 10 On Your Side interviewed thought it looked like an endorsement, “It looks like Fraim is supporting Alexander,” a passer-by said.

State Senator Kenny Alexander’s opponent, Norfolk Sheriff Bob McCabe, says, “It certainly looks like an endorsement to me. It’s not a secret that all of Mayor Fraim’s political apparatus is supporting Kenny, from campaign staff to donors, he’s the chosen one. I don’t think it’s any secret.”

Mayor Fraim did not return calls, but City Spokesperson Lori Crouch says, “The mayor has made no plans at this time to endorse anyone.” 10 On Your Side asked what does “at this time” mean? Crouch then dropped off the “at this time” to read “The mayor has no plans to endorse anyone.”

Sen. Alexander would not do an on camera interview, but says Mayor Fraim is very aware of what it looks like.

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(Photo courtesy of Curtis Akers/WAVY)

“It was Mayor Fraim’s idea and he approved the look and the message.” Alexander said.

Sen. Alexander’s other opponent is Norfolk City Councilman Andy Protogyrou. 10 On Your Side asked him when Mayor Fraim says he is not endorsing anyone you would say?

“I take him at his word. I don’t know if he is going to change his mind tomorrow,” Protogyrou said.

According to Protogyrou, Mayor Fraim offered the same picture to him to use as he wishes, “Paul said I can use his image for whatever I need, and I said thanks I appreciate it…and then someone handed me a cellphone with the picture of the billboard, and I said no wonder he said I could do that.”

“It doesn’t concern me because I know deep down it was not an endorsement.” Will he get one in the future? “I don’t know that is up to Paul,” Protogyrou says.

10 On Your Side asked an ODU student walking by, “When Mayor Fraim said he has not endorsed anyone you would say?”

“It’s pretty clear he has,” the student said.

“It doesn’t concern me because I know deep down it was not an endorsement.” Will he get one in the future? “I don’t know that is up to Paul,” Protogyrou says.

Protogyrou’s campaign manager David Cary said Alexander’s billboard is deliberately misleading, and Sheriff McCabe thinks the billboard is an endorsement, “I think the average person who is not involved in politics, and sees that would assume the Mayor is endorsing Kenny. I think it is pretty obvious.”

10 On Your Side asked Councilman Protogyrou whether he would use Mayor Fraim’s image, he said probably not. Protogyrou has the most money on hand of the three candidates, doesn’t think billboards work and is already up with television commercials.

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