Sharp differences seen in Roanoke Mayor’s race

Published: Oct. 27, 2020 at 9:37 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Roanoke Mayor’s Race has two names on the ballot, two men with experience in the office and two candidates with sharp differences on the direction of the city.

Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea received Governor Northam’s endorsement Tuesday afternoon on Mill Mountain.

And the Democratic candidate hopes city voters will agree he’s provided proven leadership in challenging times.

“This is a city that works through issues, that works through problems,” Lea told WDBJ7, “and you do that with leadership that’s committed.”

David Bowers hopes to reclaim the office he left four years ago,

“My life has been as a citizen legislator,” Bowers said last week.

He’s questioned several council decisions in the last year, including the vote to tear down Fire Station #7 and the plan to build a new bus station on Salem Avenue.

“And the question I’m presenting to the voters is who stands up for you? Who stands up for the people of Roanoke?” Bowers said.

Lea questions Bowers' own record as mayor, most notably remarks about Syrian refugees and World War II internment camps for Japanese-Americans. Bowers' words were widely condemned four years ago.

“And I can understand why my opponent doesn’t want to look back,” Lea said, “because when you look back it gets ugly.”

“I had 16 good years as Mayor and one very bad week,” Bowers responded, saying he had apologized.

In interviews and a recent forum, the two men also sparred over controversial decisions made by the Virginia Parole Board while Lea has served as a member.

“What you did was wrong,” Bowers said, “and you’ve not apologized.”

“I don’t have anything to apologize for,” Lea countered.

Voters will provide the verdict next week, when we’ll learn if they have confidence in the current leadership, or the desire for a new direction.

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