Former First Lady Anne Holton Tours Downtown Roanoke Businesses

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Anne Holton visited the Euro Bakery on one of several stops.
Anne Holton visited the Euro Bakery on one of several stops.

by Valerie Garner

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is getting help with his campaign from his most avid supporter – his wife, former First Lady Anne Holton. Her previous role as a Richmond City judge prohibited her from campaigning for her husband in past statewide races but Holton will now take an active role in Kaine’s bid for Virginia’s open Senate seat this year.

Anne Holton was born in Roanoke. Her father A. Linwood Holton served as Governor of Virginia from 1970 to 1974. It has been about a year since her last visit to Roanoke when she visited her 102 year-old aunt at Brandon Oaks, she said.

“I’ve never done this before – I couldn’t campaign so this is really my first time being on the stump for him and it’s fun,” she said. It has given her a chance to travel the state and discover what matters in people’s lives. She thought that politics has erroneously been portrayed negatively. “It is really an opportunity for service,” she said.

Referring to her father, she said that her whole life “has been intertwined with politics since when I was little and my family has looked on it as a positive opportunity to be of service and to have a little fun on the way.”

The 2012 General Assembly session has been overshadowed by bills (depending on your view) to restrict a woman’s right to an abortion in Virginia or strengthen informed consent laws. This has put Virginia in the national spotlight and became fodder for comedy shows like SNL and The Daily Show. Holton did not hesitate when asked what she thought about it. “These tough decision should be between a woman and her doctor. They’re trying to get politicians in between women and their physicians,” she said.

As Catholics, Kaine and Holton have strong feelings about the sanctity of life. Holton said that it is a tricky thing to represent the community and have your own strong views on some of these issues. Holton said, “the truth is the stuff going on in the General Assembly is divisive, not good for Virginia’s women, not good for Virginia’s image and not good for Virginia’s businesses. There are much more important issues that we all can agree on like fixing the economy and bringing back jobs.”

Mayor David Bowers was Holton’s tour guide in downtown Roanoke last Thursday as she visited businesses and shared her husband’s approach to job creation. Holton said, “I heard great things from all of the businesses I visited.”

The tour’s first stop was the yet to be opened Fork in the Market located at the back corner of the newly renovated Market building. Vice-Mayor Dave Trinkle’s wife, Ann, gave her a tour of their third restaurant. Holton was then escorted through the Market building, stopping off at Euro Bakery chatting with owner Bari Sinani. Holton said all these new startups are “signs of business beginning to turn around in real positive ways.”

Next stop was at Bread Craft on Jefferson Street where owner Alex Eliades took the entourage back to the kitchen where his sourdough bread was fermenting. He then briefly let Holton take a peek at his recipes and bagged up some bread treats for the former First Lady. Next it was on to Appalachia Press on Salem Avenue where owner John Reburn helped pick out six cards for Holton. He finished off the visit by giving everyone a token Victory Stadium memorial matchbook.

Holton said her role with the campaign is to spread Kaine’s economic message. That message she said is to “bring forward-thinking policies that will help recruit businesses to Virginia and educate Virginia’s best and brightest talent.”

She stressed that Tim Kaine served as governor during one of the worst economic climates since the great depression. “In spite of that,” said Holton; “he was able to invest to build for the future like early childhood education, infrastructure and our community colleges. Things that will help us attract business to Virginia and nurture a supportive business climate. That’s what we need to do at the national level.”

Holton continues her advocacy for quality education as she did while in the Governor’s mansion. As Virginia’s First Lady, she launched her signature initiative in January of 2007, “For Keeps: Families for All Virginia Teens,” which helped Virginia find and strengthen permanent families for children in the foster care system.