Monday, September 24, 2012

David Bowers’ chances for a statewide office are slim

Mayor Bowers sits at his office desk that still sports the sign “IN THE CATBIRD SEAT”

Updated with political analyst Dr. Bob Denton on Bowers’ chances for statewide office.

Updated with Dave Trinkle response.

David Bower’s is looking at his last term as the mayor of Roanoke. I guess you could call him a “lame duck.” It was a tight race this year between the incumbent and his Republican challenger Mark Lucas. They were only separated by 348 votes.

He had the wealthy conservative Peter Via to thank for $75,000 to float his primary and general election. It could have been a different story had it not been for Via’s deep pockets. At the time a baffled public wondered why Via who has peppered only conservative campaign coffers would give so much money to Bowers. The answer then was that he liked Bowers and knew he was not using his position as mayor as a stepping stone to higher office.

Saturday as Tim Kaine rallied supporters for his Senate race The Roanoke Star quizzed Bowers on what was on his mind and asked him if he was really considering running for Lieutenant Governor in 2013.

Friends he’d known for a long time and have some connections is the Democratic party had contacted him. Bowers wouldn’t name them but said they were located in Richmond and Eastern Virginia. “My first reaction was who, what where when why?” He was surprised, confused and flattered by the suggestion.

He said his friends wanted to see a statewide ticket that included representation from the western part of the state. Bowers is one of the longest serving Democrats (though not contiguous) in western Virginia along with Commonwealth Attorney Don Caldwell and Jack Kennedy the Circuit Court Clerk in Norton.

When asked the time frame for making a decision Bowers said “this whole episode kind of reminds me of what my secretary used to say – run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it.”

Since Aneesh Chopra had already announced for Lieutenant Governor I asked if he was prepared for a primary. Bowers thought that the Democratic Party of Virginia were planning a “caucus.” The DPVA voted and selected a primary and not a convention. In contrast the Republican Party of Virginia reversed its decision to hold a primary and instead is now planning a convention for their statewide candidates.

According to Joan Washburn his campaign manager and a consultant, Bowers will serve out his term as mayor. He’ll take stock of potential options at that time. He’ll still be young and vibrant at age 64 and can view the political landscape then. Washburn noted that Bowers was a bit prematurely “floating the balloon” for the future.

Political analyst Dr. Bob Denton says that the most important factors in statewide races are name recognition and money and more so since state Democrats have chosen a primary for candidate selection. “If you don’t have the former, you need bunches of the latter.”

“Thus, with all due respect to Mayor Bowers, he seems to lack both.” said Denton. Bowers faces an uphill climb

In general larger cities are  more likely to gain name recognition, build coalitions and potential donors. “Mayors, like governors, can usually point to their record of accomplishment,” said Denton. Down ticket offices are helped by a strong top of the ticket. “A mayor from a city the size of Roanoke would need to work years in advance with state party leaders and legislators to garner support. It is possible, but a challenging task.”

Councilman Sherman Lea was going to challenge Bowers for the Democratic nomination for Mayor this year but changed his mind and supported Bowers. In an email asking him if he would run for Mayor in 2016 he said, “I was elected for the third time to work and serve the citizens of the city of Roanoke as a Councilman 4 months ago. I take things one step at a time. Right now that’s my commitment.”

Vice Mayor Court Rosen said, “I was only re-elected this past May and my full attention and concentration is on continuing to serve the residents and taxpayers of Roanoke. I already have one of seven votes on Council and any consideration of running for mayor because of being vice mayor would have to be posed to the top vote getter in the 2014 Council elections.”

Councilman Dave Trinkle in an email wrote “While I am very comfortable with my position with the city, I do try to leave options open. It would be an honor to be mayor of our great city but it would really depend on what the situation is like then and what is best for the city at that particular time.”

No Roanoke mayor has pursued a statewide office. Tim Kaine was Mayor of Richmond before becoming Lieutenant Governor of Virginia then Governor. Between the flagpole and balloons Mayor Bowers has everything and everybody “flapping in the breeze.”

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Politics, Roanoke City Politics

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