I knew the Republicans would make a strong effort to unseat State Sen. John Edwards of Roanoke this year, mainly because he and Del. Sam Rasoul are the only Democrats remaining in the General Assembly from southwest Virginia. That part of the state is so Republican now that Edwards’ seat, in a district that still leans Democratic, was one of their best shots at unseating a Democratic incumbent. However, the greatest threat to Edwards now is coming from a completely unexpected source, Don Caldwell, commonwealth’s attorney for Roanoke City. Don has always run as a Democrat and even chaired the city Democratic committee until a few years ago. Now, he has filed papers to run in November as an independent against Edwards and his Republican opponent, Nancy Dye.
Dye is well-funded and is certain to welcome Caldwell’s entry into the race if he does go through with his plans to run. As Carter Turner, chair of the Roanoke County Democratic Committee said recently in the Roanoke Times, “I think John’s got his hands full even if Don doesn’t run. Dye’s got literally some of the best people in the industry doing stuff for her. I think she’s formidable.”
All I can figure is that Caldwell, who has been commonwealth’s attorney for more than 30 years as a Democratic office holder, was hoping that John Edwards would retire this year. When Edwards didn’t, Caldwell decided to morph into an independent. He’s bidding to become the spoiler in a three-way race, someone who is willing to turn his back on the party that supported him all those years.
Caldwell’s justification to the Roanoke Times was that he wanted to “get away from the dogma of both parties and get back to serving the reasonable people on both sides.” He didn’t elaborate on exactly what Democratic “dogma” has driven him to become an independent after decades of being quite happy to run on that same dogma as a Democrat in a city that is a Democratic stronghold. Since about 40% of the district is the city of Roanoke, Caldwell could simply think he can somehow corral 33% plus 1 and win. The probable outcome of his independent candidacy, however, is that he might peel off just enough votes from Edwards to throw the election to Dye.
Edwards had better campaign like this is life or death for his political career because it is. Otherwise, the 21th senate district may well find itself with a self-described “Reagan conservative” as its senate representative. I say that because the two main candidates in the race, Edwards and Dye, will spend upwards of $1 million on the race. I foresee Caldwell being underfunded but taking just enough votes to help Dye along in her quest.
Dye is a retired physician who has railed against the mythical “war on coal” and who does not support the expansion of Medicaid, or the Affordable Care Act. She has never held elective office.
Let’s see…How do you spell “turncoat”? Doesn’t it start with “C”?