Mayor’s Race Heats Up Down Home Stretch

Councilman Sherman Lea, Mayor David Bowers and Councilwoman Anita Price.

by Valerie Garner

Monday was cold and windy but the gloves came off as Democrats For City Council rallied around incumbent Mayor David Bowers. A few supporters also braved the elements outside William Fleming High School.

Republican challenger Mark Lucas has been bolstered by a poll his campaign conducted that shows that “it is close but Mark is ahead by 2%,” according to former City Republican Party Chairman and campaign volunteer Adam Boitnott.

Boitnott said the poll was not scientific but he felt that the 800 respondents “helped to gauge the way the wind is blowing.”

At a press conference Councilman Sherman Lea and Councilwoman Anita Price, both up for re-election, touted the progress the city has made during their tenure. “The city is on the upbeat,” said Lea. He added that Council’s support for schools “is unmatched by any other urban city in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Reduced crime, keeping citizens safe, job growth, business expansions and increased funding for tourism has put Roanoke on the move, said Lea.

“Fixing bridges and maintaining curbs, gutters and sidewalks are the small things that citizens want to see,” Lea said. He also noted that City Council is spending taxpayer’s money wisely as he pointed to the scaled down vision for Elmwood Park. The once hefty $13 million price tag is now a more modest redo at $4 million.

Price said, “I want people to notice and recognize that Mayor Bowers is also well versed on the issues of our city.” She thought Lucas was not ready for a prime time mayoral position. “I would encourage him to perhaps serve in a capacity he could demonstrate his interest … even [Lucas] acknowledged that he is not as well versed as Mayor Bowers.”

On city issues Lucas has deferred answering questions on some city issues with which he was unfamiliar. This concerned Price and she encouraged voters to recognize that fact. “We do in fact have a wonderful team in place,” she said.

“Just within the last week two former members of Roanoke City Council told me that my opponent has expressed concern to them about the time involved with serving as mayor,” said Bowers. “If you can’t find time to serve on the Parks and Recreation committee or the Greenway Commission than you might have a concern about serving as mayor. – I never have that concern – I don’t think the people of Roanoke have that concern about me,” he said.

Bowers said he was at the airport at 7 a.m. on Sunday seeing off the Westside debate team and was at the Blue Ridge Marathon and represented the city at a funeral. “It takes time to be the Mayor of Roanoke … I’ll find the time,” he said.

Bowers said he did some “ribbon-cutting” at the opening of the Tinker Creek Greenway extension with Councilman Bill Bestpitch and Congressman Bob Goodlatte Monday morning.

He said “call it what you want but … whenever there is a ribbon cutting people in Roanoke ought to know that that’s a sign of success.”

In response Lucas said in an email: “It sounds like David Bowers is really getting desperate. To hold a press conference to simply attack me reeks of a campaign and a candidate who is out of ideas and out of time. I have a positive vision for the Valley and have a detailed 7-step plan to create jobs in Roanoke. It is up on my website and facebook page and I am happy to answer any questions about it. I also find it ironic that the same campaign that stated it isn’t the Mayor’s job to be hustling around creating jobs, has now been attempting to offer up some proposals for economic development.”

Lucas thought Bowers was inattentive at council meetings not knowing what was in the budget and “fretting about lost parking spaces” with the Elmwood Park renovation.

“I would suggest that it is better to have never been to a City Council Meeting than to ‘lead’ such a meeting and end up ignorant of the content.”

 In response to his preparation for being mayor Lucas responded: “I have attended many council meetings over the years, including the council meeting where Mayor Bowers was the only member to vote against amending the proffers to Patrick Henry H.S. In fact, my daughter even spoke at that meeting as the female student representative of PH. I believe it is better to be honest with voters and not have an answer to every question rather than shooting from the hip and spouting potential inaccuracies like this obvious falsehood regarding my never being to a council meeting. What really matters in this election is substance over style. I have a detailed plan for the future of job creation in Roanoke and I have the business and entrepreneurial background to get this done.”