Sen. John Edwards formally opened his Roanoke office on Friday. Approximately 100 people attended the event. The new lines of the 21st Senate District include all of Roanoke, a portion of Roanoke County, part of Montgomery County including Blacksburg and all of Giles County. His opponent in November is Del. Dave Nutter, a five-term Republican who defeated Tea-Party-endorsed Tripp Godsey in a primary that drew less than 3% of registered voters. Nutter won in Montgomery and Giles Counties, but Godsey actually carried Roanoke City and County by a few votes.
Sen. Edwards outlined for the group what will be the main issue he will stress in the campaign, job creation through investments in education and transportation. “We create jobs by investing in the infrastructure of the future, by investing in job-creating institutions,” Edwards said.
Edwards noted that Nutter voted for the McDonnell budget that would have cut an additional $620 million from public education, an action that would have resulted in 10,000-12,000 jobs being lost in the state; however, the Democratic-controlled State Senate blocked the cut. He also pointed out that in multiple sessions of the General Assembly, the Senate put forth a bipartisan transportation plan that couldn’t even receive committee consideration in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates.
John Edwards was instrumental in the creation of the Roanoke Higher Education Center. The center offers courses through 12 state institutions of higher education. Since its inception, the higher ed center has allowed more than 6,500 persons to receive degrees or certificates of program completion. The average increase in salary because of the training has been as much as $17,000, according to one study.
Edwards also got the funding for a bus that takes persons wishing to ride Amtrak from Lynchburg north. The bus picks up passengers in Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Roanoke, Salem, and Bedford. In the first few months of operation ridership was more than double what had been expected.
The key to the re-election of John Edwards and perhaps to the Democrats maintaining control of the Senate is going to rest on the turnout in Roanoke and Roanoke County, where the majority of the District’s registered voters reside. Nutter’s base is in Montgomery County and Christiansburg. A benefit to getting good turnout in the Roanoke Valley may well be the Democrat running for the House of Delegates in the 17th District, Freeda Cathcart. Her expertise as a community organizer with deep ties in various Roanoke area neighborhoods will be of great assistance to both candidates.