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Democrats to determine future direction of Alexandria.

Vice Mayor Amy Jackson says she wants the city to have more business that cater to families with children.

Vice Mayor Amy Jackson says she wants the city to have more business that cater to families with children.

Alyia Gaskins

raised: $150,000

top donors

$25,000 from Tiffeny Sanchez

$10,000 from attorney Reginald James Brown

$10,000 from NOVA Area Labor Federation

$10,000 from United Here Local 23

$5,000 from Service Employees International Union

Amy Jackson

raised: $60,000

top donors

$6,000 from paralegal Martha Bickford

$3,000 from former Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw

$1,500 from Bill Rossello for City Council

$1,000 from Hoffman Family LLC

$1,000 from Kimberly Krenik

Steve Peterson

raised: $45,000

top donors

$10,000 from Sands Capital Management research analyst Michael Sramek

$1,000 from John Batel of Utah

$1,000 from Stuart Prince, president of residential department at Peterson Companies

$500 from Michael Gribbon, managing executive director at American Real Estate Partners

$500 from attorney Grayson Hanes

The future of Alexandria City Hall is on the ballot this month, when Democrats will select their candidate for mayor. Ever since incumbent Mayor Justin Wilson announced he will not be seeking a third term last year, Democrats have been buzzing about which candidate they want to head into the November election. It's a race that comes at a time when the city is divided over everything from the future of single-family zoning to an ill-fated plan to locate a sports arena in Potomac Yard.

THE CANDIDATE who has raised the most money is Councilwoman Alyia Gaskins. Although she has only been on the City Council for one term, she has built a juggernaut of a campaign. Disclosure forms show she has raised almost $150,000 — mostly from labor groups that support her position on collective bargaining for employees of local governments. She voted in favor of Zoning for Housing, and she supports bus lanes on transit corridors. When asked about why she wants to be mayor, Gaskins says she wants to be a voice for the voiceless.

"What I want to bring to the table is making sure we are doing the outreach of going out and meeting people where they are," said Gaskins when she announced her candidacy in December. "That's not just coming to City Hall, but that is in their living rooms, in their backyards, in their parks."

On the campaign trail, Gaskins is defending the city's support for an ill-fated arena at Potomac Yard, which collapsed in March. She says she was at the table for negotiations, but she also said it was time to "move on" when the project fell apart. She has the support of the current mayor as well endorsements from former Sheriff Dana Lawhorne and influential labor unions. If elected, she says she would expand jobs for young people and respond more quickly to resident concerns. One of her first goals would be to focus on public safety.

"It starts with a plan. Right now, we don't have a strategic plan," said Gaskins. "We have a lot of different things we are testing and trying, some that are working and some that may not be working. And so the first step for me would be to clearly articulate and work with our officers on that plan."

MANY RESIDENTS who have not been thrilled with the direction of the city during the Wilson era are excited by the campaign of Vice Mayor Amy Jackson. Although she voted in favor of Zoning for Housing, she tried to delay the elimination of single-family only zoning. And although she initially voiced support for the ill-fated Potomac Yard arena, she was a vocal opponent after surveys showed widespread opposition. Unlike Gaskins, Jackson has been critical of bus-only lanes on transit corridors.

"I grew up here," she explained during her campaign kickoff in January. "When I grew up, it was about going to a mall and hanging with your friends. We don't have a mall for the kids to go to."

During a recent forum hosted by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, she said city policies can't turn on a dime "like the Titanic." But she also says she wants to continue forging partnerships in the community and pressing for body-worn cameras on police officers. She says she will let voters set her agenda rather than dictating it to them. If elected, she says, he would work toward increasing affordable housing and public safety. Her first goal would be to expand businesses that cater to families with small children.

"Bradlee Shopping Center is not a mall," said Jackson. "And it might be having the problems it's having because we don't have Landmark Mall, and we don't have other places for our kids to go and hang out."

THE PRIMARY also features a newcomer to Alexandria politics, a developer whose company oversaw the creation of National Harbor. He raised the least amount of money, and he was unable to attend the debate hosted by the Alexandria Democratic Committee because of an accident that created a health concern. Earlier this week, he appeared at the George Washington Masonic Memorial to speak to a forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.

"I know my way around the boardroom," he said. "I know how to do big business."

On the campaign trail, Peterson presents himself as someone who is the polar opposite from the direction of the city during the Wilson years. He was opposed to the ill-fated arena at Potomac Yard. He is against Zoning for Housing. He is against dedicated lanes for buses, and he is hoping that voters fed up with City Hall will give him a chance.

"I'm not a professional politician," said Peterson, adding that he wants to limit his time in office to three or six years. "Then I'll move on."