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Candidates Line Up for Ware's Roanoke Seat

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Sat Nov 16, 2013 at 10:07:41 AM EST

Del. Onzlee Ware (D-11th), who was re-elected to his seat this month without opposition, has informed Gov. McDonnell that he is resigning his seat because of  family issues. Ware revealed that his mother, who lives with him, had a stroke last summer and requires his care and attention. First elected in 2002, Ware said that her illness occurred after the deadline for removing his name from the ballot. (Or, as some are surmising, is Ware clearing the way for his name to be put forth as a judge?  After all, he has hardly been a thorn in the side of the GOP in Richmond. Both Bob McDonnell and Bill Howell praised him to the heavens after Ware announced his retirement. A sitting member of the legislature cannot be named a judge.)

Already, a bevy of candidates are lining up to vie for the open seat. Because the seat leans heavily Democratic, several potential candidates  have already signaled their intention to seek the Democratic nomination.

Court Rosen, vice mayor of Roanoke, is even running ads for the nomination touting himself as the candidate to vote for in a special election primary, but the Democratic Party in the city hasn't yet announced the way it will select its candidate. (Maybe Rosen knows something the rest of us don't.) Also announcing their  intention to run are Sam Rasoul, one-time candidate for Congress in the 6th District and loser in the last mayoral firehouse primary, and Patricia White-Boyd, a well-known organizer for Democratic campaigns in the city and a member of the 6th Congressional District Democratic Committee. Two more Democrats, Councilman David Trinkle and Keith Wheaton, founder of JBT Media Holdings, are said to be very interested in running, as is Jeff Artis, a  leader in the city chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  

Elaine in Roanoke :: Candidates Line Up for Ware's Roanoke Seat
The lone Republican to announce so far is Octavia Johnson, just defeated as she sought her third term as sheriff of Roanoke. Do I think the Republicans can pick up this seat by running Johnson? Nope. In fact, no name has yet surfaced from the GOP that would be a strong candidate.

As I look at the relative strengths of the Democratic candidates for the nomination, Court Rosen has the advantage in both name recognition and political experience. He became vice-mayor by being the largest vote-getter in the last city-wide municipal election. I personally would like to see Trish White-Boyd get the nomination, but her political organizing skills will certainly be put to the test is a crowded field like this one.

Ware's seat should be no problem for the Democrats to keep, regardless of the candidate. After all, the gerrymandering that took place in 2011 crammed as many city Democrats into the 11th as possible, keeping the Republican-leaning city precincts in Chris Head's (R-17) district . If the Democrats lose this seat in a city that is a Democratic stronghold surrounded by a sea of red, then God help us.

The timing of Ware's exit means that there will be a scramble to get candidates nominated and a special election held before the opening of the General Assembly session in January. That spells extremely low turnout.

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Just curious, what do you think about Onzlee Ware? (0.00 / 0)
He has certainly had some ethical issues in his past, as well as some questionable votes. Are you sad or glad to see him retiring? (I lean strongly towards "glad")

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Well... (4.00 / 2)
Ware is interested in one thing only, as far as I can see: Onzlee Ware. I can't remember anything that he has done for his constituents in his years in office. And, he has had some real ethical issues. I'm ecstatic that he is retiring. I shudder to think of "Judge Onzlee Ware," but he refused to rule out accepting an appointment if he got it. All the Democrats who have announced would be such an improvement. Yep, I'm really glad to say bye bye to Onzlee. :-)

[ Parent ]
I figured as much. (0.00 / 0)
So, let's bid a fond adieu to Onzlee "Air Uranium" Ware then! :)

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[ Parent ]
Sam Rasoul running? (0.00 / 0)
I got this earlier today:
Our campaign is in full swing!  This special election for the 11th House District in Roanoke will happen in the coming weeks.  I need your help now more than ever. I have fought hard to advance a progressive agenda for many years, and I am humbled by the overwhelming support in just the first day! We nearly have 500 likes on our Facebook page in the first 24 hours and our volunteers are energized about our grassroots efforts!

I need your help:
Volunteer: You can make calls from our office or from your own home
Write Letters-To-The Editor
Knock on doors with me
Talk to your friends and tell us about their support in the 11th District
Please email us at or call Aubrey at 804.938.2340 to help us win this....

You can learn more about Sam at

My very best,
Sam Rasoul

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[ Parent ]
Disaster (1.00 / 1)
No better way to make sure Dems give up this safe seat than to nominate Sam Rasoul.

[ Parent ]
Background (0.00 / 0)
Roanoke is, of course, an overwhelmingly Democratic city.

Here's a little bit more on the 11th District.

Just on Election Day (I haven't allocated absentees), McAullife received 9,364 votes, or 57.7%, and Cuccinelli received 5,312, or 32.7%. Sarvis was 1,550 or 9.6%.

Ben Tribbett has expressed concerns that a black Republican candidate would be a significant threat in the special election. So I looked at the LG's race.

Northam won with 1,0565 votes, or 66.4%, and E. W. Jackson received 5,358 votes, or 33.7%.

So no real signs of a threat, but it could also be because Sarvis voters were supporting Northam, and also some white Republicans were backing Northam over Jackson.

There were, however, a few precincts where Jackson actually did better than Cuccinelli and Northam was behind McAullife: Lincoln Terrace, Melrose, Eureka Park, Villa Heights, and Westside. But these were still overwhelmingly Democratic districts, no matter the swing. They are the heart of Mayor Bowers's victory in the close mayoral election over Lucas a few years ago:

Roanoke Mayor's Race

In the Sheriff's race, Democrat Allen received 7,373 votes, or 46.3%, Olivia Johnson received 5,961 votes, or 37.5%, and an independent candidate received 2,575 votes, or 16.2%.

Because some of the southern precincts are not in this district, this district is overall more Democratic than the city itself.

Johnson was able to run ahead of the top of the ticket, so she would seem to be a more formidable Republican than a generic candidate. Her best precincts for crossover were Highland 1, Highland 2, Jefferson 2, Williamson Road 4, Lincoln Terrace, Melrose, Eureka Park, Villa Heights, Westside, Washington Heights, Raleigh Court 1, Raleigh Court 3, and Wasena.

When you look at Rosen's performance in the 2012 election, he ran behind his other Democrats in many of these same precincts, even though he was the top vote getter city wide. Fifty to sixty voters per precinct in the heavily Democratic core of the city just left him off. That's not much, but this was the May election where only die hards come out to vote. Turnout will be low in the special too ...

Certainly a race to continue to watch.

I Agree (0.00 / 0)
I agree with you that this is a race to watch. One reason Octavia Johnson ran as well as she did, besides incumbency, is that Travis Akins (I) drew votes from Tim Allen. Both Akins and Allen had good resumes to be sheriff.

Court Rosen has good name recognition and piles of money, but he has no ties to the district. Ditto for David Trinkle. Sam Rasoul is a nice guy, but he cannot win this district. Trish White-Boyd and Keith Wheaton both have good ties in the district and are well-known.

Octavia Johnson has some baggage from her tenure as sheriff, resulting in two people opposing her.

Ben is right in being somewhat apprehensive about this seat. I don't like that fact that so many people are vying for the nomination. It just might split up the vote so many ways that a weak candidate gets nominated.  

[ Parent ]
Current 11th HOD Democratic candidates ... (0.00 / 0)
Jeff Artis has withdrawn. There are still 5 contenders so far as you point out. Councilman (former Vice Mayor) Dave Trinkle, Vice Mayor Court Rosen, Trish White-Boyd, Sam Rasoul and Keith Wheaton.

Top Democratic support is behind Dave Trinkle and is said to be pulling votes from his South Roanoke base.

Unsubstantiated is the backing of Onzlee Ware for Trish White-Boyd.

South Roanoke Republicans and Lee-Hi will come out for Trinkle as well as Rosen.

Question is will the heavy Democratic Northwest get out numbers for Trish to overcome SoRo.

My prediction is Dave Trinkle will win with his long family legacy. Rosen has only been in Roanoke since 2005.

Leaving room for an upset due to 5 people running. Sam Rasoul has a hardcore following and has been endorsed by Freeda Cathcart who was defeated in the 17th HOD in November.

:Head Slam: (0.00 / 0)
"Sam Rasoul has a hardcore following and has been endorsed by Freeda Cathcart who was defeated in the 17th HOD in November."

On top of many other embarrassments this election, the fact that Cathcart was taken seriously by some activists, especially big donors.

If there are reports of another earthquake today in Virginia, it's me slamming my head against the wall out of frustration.

[ Parent ]
Thanks for the analysis. (0.00 / 0)
I'm curious who constitutes Sam Rasoul's "hardcore following." Is this based on ideology, personality, or what?  Thanks.

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[ Parent ]
Sam (3.00 / 1)
Sam Rasoul has a residual following from his run against Bob Goodlatte a few elections back. (Sam was only 25, a newbie to politics, and still got 36% or so of the vote, about the same as other candidates have gotten against Goodlatte. He also is active in some civic clubs and has good connections with the immigrant population in Roanoke. However, Sam has few connections with the bulk of this district and only moved to the city three years ago from Botetourt County.

David Trinkle will have real problems in this district if he is the candidate against Octavia Johnson. In this election Ware received 13,529 votes in a no-opposition election. The two south Roanoke precincts gave him 1,259 votes, not even 10% of the total. (I'll have to analyze the state-wide results in the district to see if Trinkle can garner enough votes to overcome the rest of the district. I strongly doubt it.)

Another wild card is the method used to pick the candidate. At a mass meeting/convention type of gathering, it's anybody's ball game (Just ask Bill Bolling.) The most likely type is a firehouse primary, in my estimation, and that favors Trish White-Boyd, simply because of her well-known skill at political organizing. (I'm assuming a five-candidate primary.) She will get her people to that primary, and she will have much support in that district.

This whole thing right now is a "crap-shoot." The method of selection is up in the air, and the turn-out in a final special election makes the whole thing iffy for everybody.  

[ Parent ]
Thanks for all the info. I look forward to your continued (0.00 / 0)
coverage of this here at Blue Virginia!  Thanks.

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[ Parent ]

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