“Timing is everything” is an oft-quoted saying. The sudden timing of a new Roanoke City Council member, Luke Priddy (D), to seek higher office just a few weeks after being sworn in to Council has generated some questions.
As reported here and here, in March and April 2022 Roanoke City Council sought a new member to temporarily replace disgraced Robert Jeffrey Jr. (D) who had to resign due to multiple felonies related to misallocation of funds allegedly over $100,000. Among the many applicants was Luke Priddy, who for several years had been Legislative Aide to Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke).
Priddy was not among the finalists chosen by Council that spring, but a few months later he threw his hat into the ring to complete the two remaining years of Jeffrey’s term. He ran for that office last summer and fall and won in November. As reported here, Priddy defeated his GOP opponent, Peg McGuire, by about an 11% margin.
Based on Priddy’s two strenuous campaigns to get on Roanoke City Council between the nine months of March-November, it would be fair to conclude that Priddy had an extreme desire to join Council.
Therefore, some were surprised to hear in March that Priddy was already announcing his run for a new, higher office: State Senate.
Some background via a timeline:
January 2022: Priddy was already considering a run for the state senate, as evidenced in his March 10, 2023 Facebook post of his letter to Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke). “In January 2022, I shared my desire to carry on your legacy in the Senate of Virginia should you decide to retire.” (Due to recent redistricting, the highly-gerrymandered district that Edwards represented for years has been dissolved. In its place is the new Senate District 4, which is comprised of all of Roanoke City, Salem, much of Roanoke County, and Eastern Montgomery County.)
March/April 2022: Priddy in unsuccessful bid to be appointed to Council
Nov. 8, 2022: Priddy elected to City Council
Jan. 1, 2023: Priddy sworn in to City Council along with other members
Feb. 27: Sen. John Edwards (D) announced he was not seeking re-election
March 10: In a Facebook post about 69 days after joining Council, Priddy announced he was running for state senate since Sen. Edwards is stepping down.
Ambition is generally applauded, but in this case, some question if the City Council campaigns were a genuine desire to help the City or just “check the box” to move on to a higher position?
In order to help inform our reading community and contribute to a Valley-wide dialogue, The Roanoke Star asked Priddy these questions and if he had any timeline or context he wished to share with the readers. As of publication time, no response has been received.
1. If people who voted for you or otherwise supported your city council campaign suspect you are using city council as a stepping stone to something greater, how would you respond?
2. City challenges seem unabated – beggars, shoplifting, a passed out man in a public park bathroom during the Greenway Bridge press conference with Senators Kaine and Warner. Can you point to any positive accomplishments you have made at the local level before jumping into a state government race?
3. At the April 12 Greenway Bridge press conference, no members of City Council were observed answering what should have been a basic question. Is the replacement for the one bridge only, or the second bridge upstream a few hundred yards? Based on the apparent lack of understanding about a local issue involving several million dollars of federal funds, in a jurisdiction you represent, how can you assure voters across Salem and the Counties of Roanoke and Montgomery that you understand their issues and can function at the statewide level?
The Roanoke Star also reached out to the two other candidates in the June Democrat primary who wish to have their names on the November ballot: Council member Trish White-Boyd and DeAnthony “D.A.” Pierce. No response has been received from Ms. White-Boyd, but Pierce did give this statement:
“I understand why Luke chose to run for State Senate after recently being elected to serve on Roanoke City Council.
“John Edwards was his mentor, and technically his boss, for the last five years. I feel he didn’t foresee his retirement being announced, like most of us. As Luke has mentioned, he’s trying to carry on the legacy of the man who inspired him to enter politics since childhood.
“He likely ran for city council as a way to start taking his own first steps towards helping communities here in Roanoke. But he’s spent the last five years in Richmond as John Edwards’ Chief of Staff, so, I can understand wanting to continue the work that not only impacts Roanoke, but the state overall.
“I do think a question for him, and Trish White-Boyd, is whether they plan to step down from City Council if they win the nomination in November? It is my current understanding that they do not. Several voters have commented to me, how they can be both Senator and Council members? Particularly when one role requires you to be in Richmond for part of the year?
City GOP Chairman Charlie Nave gave his response too: “I think it is stunning that Councilman Priddy already feels his work on Council is done a mere four months after he was sworn in.”
Early voting for the Democrat primary has already begun, and the last day of voting is Tuesday, June 20. The winner of that primary will face Sen. David Suetterlein (R) in November.
With the Virginia Senate having a current 22-18 Democrat majority, it has been a brake on many GOP initiatives from Gov. Youngkin and the House of Delegates. With Democrats eager to keep their majority to keep thwarting the governor’s agenda, and with Republicans eager to win the majority to pass their agenda into law, much attention is on the 40-member Senate. The competitive nature of the new 4th District means this Roanoke Valley race may have great state-wide consequences.
Update: Shortly after publication, Mr. Pierce sent this message: