Monday, July 26, 2021
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Reflections on a Firehouse Primary

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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.

Trinkle Likely 11th District Democratic Nominee?

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Now that the governor has set a date for the special election to replace retiring Del. Onzlee Ware in the 11th District, the push begins in earnest by the five candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat that encompasses most of Roanoke City. The winner will be chosen in a firehouse primary on Dec. 7 at the Roanoke Civic Center. Since two sitting members of Roanoke City Council, Court Rosen and David Trinkle, are seeking the nomination, local politics could also be up in the air if either one wins.

The last time Roanoke Democrats used a firehouse primary to choose a nominee was the last mayoral election. In that primary David Bowers, the incumbent, beat Sam Rasoul. About 1,200 people participated in that primary, and there certainly aren't likely to be more participants this time. With a five-person field, I really can't handicap this race. Whoever can get three or four hundred or more supporters to show up on a December Saturday will take the race. Even so, I'll try to do some guessing.

The person who seems strongest going in is David Trinkle, who has served on city council and was a school board member before that. Dr. Trinkle is up for re-election to council in May, but he hasn't announced whether he will seek another term or not. Trinkle is the "establishment candidate," touting his experience and readiness to represent the city in Richmond. The other council member, Court Rosen, also has made his council experience a selling point; however, if past experience is what people at the primary use to guide their vote, Trinkle wins.

Then, we get to the kicker that makes calling a winner so difficult - three other candidates who bring their own constituencies to the race.