Mayor Bowers Announces His Bid For Re-Election

The Mayor in “the catbird seat.”

by Valerie Garner

Following a smooth uneventful Roanoke City Democratic Committee reorganization Tuesday evening incumbent Mayor David Bowers announced that he will seek another term.

Mayor David Bowers has had many ups and downs in the political arena:

In 1984 at age 32 he was elected to City Council. In 1998 he took a chance and ran for Congress against Bob Goodlatte and was unsuccessful. In 2000 Bowers was unseated for two consecutive terms as mayor in a three-way race between Mac McCadden, Ralph Smith and Bowers; Smith, a Republican, won that race. In 2004 Bowers ran in a Democratic firehouse primary against Nelson Harris and lost.

The city’s Democratic reorganizations in 2005 and 2007 were contentious. The Victory Stadium debate hung heavy over elections. In 2006 Bowers ran for a seat on Council as a Democrat with former State Senator Granger MacFarlane and former Councilman William White, Sr. The Roanoke City Committee broke apart when, with the backing of Delegate Onzlee Ware, a separate caucus was formed with an Independent ticket.

The “For the City” Independent ticket of Dr. David Trinkle, Gwen Mason and Alfred Dowe, Jr. won in 2006. The Committee then voted Mayor Nelson Harris and Vice-Mayor Bev Fitzpatrick out of the Committee for their support of that Independent ticket.

Bowers ran for chair of the Committee and lost in the 2007 reorganization.

Bowers was not deterred and in 2008 he poured mostly his own money into an Independent candidacy for mayor challenging incumbent Democrat Nelson Harris. He plastered his picture on busses and marched around downtown led by bagpipers and signs saying “Run David Run.” At the 2007 Christmas parade bystanders yelled from the sidelines “Run David Run.”

He beat Harris handily and then rejoined the Democratic Committee in the 2009 reorganization.

Bowers is back in the “catbird seat” as he calls it and he intends to stay there.

Councilman Sherman Lea decided not to challenge Bowers for mayor this year and will seek re-election to Council for a third term. Both Democratic incumbent council members Court Rosen and Anita Price are expected to announce for re-election. It will be a tough slate for any challenger to crack.

Joan Washburn will manage Bowers’ campaign and fundraising. Each of the other candidates will run their own campaign but they may share some resources, said Bowers.

Speaking of the current makeup of the Council Bowers said, “I think what we’ve been able to do more then anything else is bring a sense of cordiality to the City Council and the conduct of our democracy. This Council can run a strong campaign asserting that we have brought both cordiality and accomplishment to Roanoke City government.”

Commonwealth Attorney Don Caldwell stepped down from two years of chairing the Committee saying, “the chair should be rotated so other people can do this job.” Caldwell also admitted it would create a conflict of interest since he was up for re-election.

Fifty-three credentialed Democrats and potential members filled the William Fleming High School cafeteria on Tuesday. The current Vice-Chair of the Committee JoAnn Edmunds was elected Chair and Charles Withers was elected Vice-Chair. Edmonds has served on the Committee for ten years.