Candidates Line Up for Ware’s Roanoke Seat


    Del. Onzlee Ware (D-11th), who was re-elected to his seat this month without opposition, has informed Gov. McDonnell that he is resigning his seat because of  family issues. Ware revealed that his mother, who lives with him, had a stroke last summer and requires his care and attention. First elected in 2002, Ware said that her illness occurred after the deadline for removing his name from the ballot. (Or, as some are surmising, is Ware clearing the way for his name to be put forth as a judge?  After all, he has hardly been a thorn in the side of the GOP in Richmond. Both Bob McDonnell and Bill Howell praised him to the heavens after Ware announced his retirement. A sitting member of the legislature cannot be named a judge.)

    Already, a bevy of candidates are lining up to vie for the open seat. Because the seat leans heavily Democratic, several potential candidates  have already signaled their intention to seek the Democratic nomination.

    Court Rosen, vice mayor of Roanoke, is even running ads for the nomination touting himself as the candidate to vote for in a special election primary, but the Democratic Party in the city hasn’t yet announced the way it will select its candidate. (Maybe Rosen knows something the rest of us don’t.) Also announcing their  intention to run are Sam Rasoul, one-time candidate for Congress in the 6th District and loser in the last mayoral firehouse primary, and Patricia White-Boyd, a well-known organizer for Democratic campaigns in the city and a member of the 6th Congressional District Democratic Committee. Two more Democrats, Councilman David Trinkle and Keith Wheaton, founder of JBT Media Holdings, are said to be very interested in running, as is Jeff Artis, a  leader in the city chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  

    The lone Republican to announce so far is Octavia Johnson, just defeated as she sought her third term as sheriff of Roanoke. Do I think the Republicans can pick up this seat by running Johnson? Nope. In fact, no name has yet surfaced from the GOP that would be a strong candidate.

    As I look at the relative strengths of the Democratic candidates for the nomination, Court Rosen has the advantage in both name recognition and political experience. He became vice-mayor by being the largest vote-getter in the last city-wide municipal election. I personally would like to see Trish White-Boyd get the nomination, but her political organizing skills will certainly be put to the test is a crowded field like this one.

    Ware’s seat should be no problem for the Democrats to keep, regardless of the candidate. After all, the gerrymandering that took place in 2011 crammed as many city Democrats into the 11th as possible, keeping the Republican-leaning city precincts in Chris Head’s (R-17) district . If the Democrats lose this seat in a city that is a Democratic stronghold surrounded by a sea of red, then God help us.

    The timing of Ware’s exit means that there will be a scramble to get candidates nominated and a special election held before the opening of the General Assembly session in January. That spells extremely low turnout.

    • He has certainly had some ethical issues in his past, as well as some questionable votes. Are you sad or glad to see him retiring? (I lean strongly towards “glad”)

    • FreeDem

      Roanoke is, of course, an overwhelmingly Democratic city.

      Here’s a little bit more on the 11th District.

      Just on Election Day (I haven’t allocated absentees), McAullife received 9,364 votes, or 57.7%, and Cuccinelli received 5,312, or 32.7%. Sarvis was 1,550 or 9.6%.

      Ben Tribbett has expressed concerns that a black Republican candidate would be a significant threat in the special election. So I looked at the LG’s race.

      Northam won with 1,0565 votes, or 66.4%, and E. W. Jackson received 5,358 votes, or 33.7%.

      So no real signs of a threat, but it could also be because Sarvis voters were supporting Northam, and also some white Republicans were backing Northam over Jackson.

      There were, however, a few precincts where Jackson actually did better than Cuccinelli and Northam was behind McAullife: Lincoln Terrace, Melrose, Eureka Park, Villa Heights, and Westside. But these were still overwhelmingly Democratic districts, no matter the swing. They are the heart of Mayor Bowers’s victory in the close mayoral election over Lucas a few years ago:

      Roanoke Mayor's Race

      In the Sheriff’s race, Democrat Allen received 7,373 votes, or 46.3%, Olivia Johnson received 5,961 votes, or 37.5%, and an independent candidate received 2,575 votes, or 16.2%.

      Because some of the southern precincts are not in this district, this district is overall more Democratic than the city itself.

      Johnson was able to run ahead of the top of the ticket, so she would seem to be a more formidable Republican than a generic candidate. Her best precincts for crossover were Highland 1, Highland 2, Jefferson 2, Williamson Road 4, Lincoln Terrace, Melrose, Eureka Park, Villa Heights, Westside, Washington Heights, Raleigh Court 1, Raleigh Court 3, and Wasena.

      When you look at Rosen’s performance in the 2012 election, he ran behind his other Democrats in many of these same precincts, even though he was the top vote getter city wide. Fifty to sixty voters per precinct in the heavily Democratic core of the city just left him off. That’s not much, but this was the May election where only die hards come out to vote. Turnout will be low in the special too …

      Certainly a race to continue to watch.

    • ValerieInRke

      Jeff Artis has withdrawn. There are still 5 contenders so far as you point out. Councilman (former Vice Mayor) Dave Trinkle, Vice Mayor Court Rosen, Trish White-Boyd, Sam Rasoul and Keith Wheaton.

      Top Democratic support is behind Dave Trinkle and is said to be pulling votes from his South Roanoke base.

      Unsubstantiated is the backing of Onzlee Ware for Trish White-Boyd.

      South Roanoke Republicans and Lee-Hi will come out for Trinkle as well as Rosen.

      Question is will the heavy Democratic Northwest get out numbers for Trish to overcome SoRo.

      My prediction is Dave Trinkle will win with his long family legacy. Rosen has only been in Roanoke since 2005.

      Leaving room for an upset due to 5 people running. Sam Rasoul has a hardcore following and has been endorsed by Freeda Cathcart who was defeated in the 17th HOD in November.