Candidates for Roanoke Mayor spar during final candidates forum

Published: Oct. 22, 2020 at 8:48 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The gloves came off Thursday in the Roanoke Mayor’s race.

Incumbent Sherman Lea and challenger David Bowers met during a virtual forum presented by the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce. During a sharp exchange on several issues, they questioned each other’s record as mayor.

Bowers opened with a call for new leadership.

“Let’s bring a new direction to the Star City with the election coming up on November 3rd,” Bowers said during his opening statement.

Lea argued it was Bowers' leadership that embarrassed the city four years ago, when comments he made about Syrian refugees were widely condemned.

“We had to deal with issues that we were considered to be the laughing stock of not only this country,” Lea said,"but of the world."

Bowers said he had apologized for his words. He said Lea should apologize for controversial decisions made by the Virginia Parole Board.

“What you did was wrong, and you have not apologized," Bowers said. “What I am referring to is when you as a member of the state parole board authorized the release on parole of a murderer of a Richmond police officer. You’ve not given any explanation of that. You’ve dodged the question time and again. And you’ve not apologized.”

“I don’t have anything to apologize for,” Lea responded. “As a matter of fact, my opponent doesn’t even know the vote. That was a parole board vote. All of us don’t vote on every case. So I think he’s just trying to throw something up to defend his devastating words, that devastated this community. And they haven’t gotten over that yet.”

And that was just the first ten minutes.

The forum included other disagreements on issues including the city’s response to violent crime, plans for a new bus station and the failed Evans Spring development near Valley View Mall.

The virtual event was the third and final candidates forum of the campaign.

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