Today is the moment of truth, when we find out if Democrat Sam Rasoul holds on to the seat suddenly vacated by Onzlee Ware after the November election. According to the Roanoke Times, of the $121,000 raised by Republican Octavia Johnson, $105,000 came from Bill Howell’s Dominion Leadership PAC. (Oddly, Johnson has reported spending only $73,000 of her Howell largesse.) Sam Rasoul has raised $108,000 from many donors and has spent down that war chest. Howell’s PAC money has been used to fund multiple, mud-slinging mailings for Johnson, as well as robocalls to voters. One such mailing attacking Rasoul even used a photo of him taken by Valerie Garner, publisher of the Roanoke Free Press web newspaper, without asking her permission. Garner, a strong supporter of Sam Rasoul, is understandably very angry.
To me, the infusion of Howell money and desperate campaigning by Rep. Bob Goodlatte on behalf of Johnson are attempts to get bragging rights by picking up the last delegate seat in SW Virginia held by a Democrat. I don’t think they actually sense a victory in the making, but with special election turnout, the investment seems worth it to them. Today is the moment of truth for Roanoke Democrats to see if they can get their voters to the polls on the coldest day so far this winter. If they do, Sam Rasoul is the next representative in the 11th District. If not, then a candidate who refused to debate or to state her positions on any issues – or to actually campaign for the office – will end up as just one more vote in the pocket of Bill Howell.
I’ll head to a Rasoul victory party tonight and will report here any results I can get.