Reflections on a Firehouse Primary


    Today’s story about the firehouse primary held yesterday in Roanoke City should center on the victory of Sam Rasoul, who won a four-way primary race by beating Councilman David Trinkle by 44 votes. That would be the story if Mayor David Bowers hadn’t lost his cool when the candidate he endorsed, Trinkle, lost. Instead, the story has become the dismaying comments Bowers made to the Roanoke Times

    Bowers insinuated that there were somehow dirty tricks involved in the primary. “The things I’ve heard that may have happened over the last couple of days are dirty and despicable and cause me to question the legitimacy of this nomination,” he said.

    All I can figure out is that Bowers somehow thinks Republicans interfered to insure victory for a weaker candidate than Trinkle. Others involved disagreed, including Trinkle himself. Trinkle told the Times that he thought it was “a pretty good Democratic day.” Additionally, Onzlee Ware called Bowers’ remarks “regrettable,” noting that as a long-time office holder he knew better than to make unsubstantiated charges.

    The turnout for the primary was about twice what was expected – 2,632. Evidently, that set Bowers off. David Bowers has been notorious in the past for making rather outrageous claims, but I thought he had outgrown that “foot-in-mouth disease.” I guess not. The job of Democratic office holders now is to do everything to insure that Del. Ware’s seat stays in Democratic hands, not to provide ammunition to Rasoul’s Republican opponent.

    There is another way to read the large turnout.

    This field of four candidates reflected the growing diversity of Roanoke City. David Trinkle and Court Rosen were both from the southern part of Roanoke, which has controlled city politics for a very long time. The presence of those two sitting city council members certainly split that segment of the vote. Trish White-Boyd is an African-American business owner and political organizer. She appealed to the precincts of the city with the greatest African-American presence. Sam Rasoul was the candidate with the strongest ties to the city’s growing immigrant community, as well as to some groups who have not been that involved in politics before. So, interest was heightened by the diversity of the candidates and by the suddenness of Ware’s  resignation. That makes more sense in explaining the turnout than Bowers’ claims, made without providing any proof.

    Actually, if Republicans were trying to influence the election, they would have gravitated to Trish White-Boyd, in my opinion. She has never run for office before and is a virtual unknown in many parts of the city. Instead, my explanation for David Bowers’ inexcusable remarks is that the young upstart, Rasoul, who dared to challenge Bowers for the nomination for mayor in the last municipal election, beat Bowers’ choice for the open seat.

    David Bowers is too old and too seasoned a politician to behave like a spoiled child who can’t get his way. His behavior reminds me of Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, whose anger at not being hired as a consultant by the Terry McAuliffe campaign, resulted in Saunders’ ridiculous endorsement of Ken Cuccinelli.

    We Democrats now should pull together and work as hard as we can to elect the candidate that people chose in the firehouse primary. It’s time to put the pique away, Mayor. (And, it’s time for David Trinkle to think long and hard about the bad consequences of a possible run as a third, independent, candidate in a low-turnout special election.)  

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