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Smith Vows to Return to Senate

Ralph Smith announces that he will be moving to the new 19th Senate District.

by Gene Marrano

They thought they had him “all figured out,” said Ralph Smith, referring to the Virginia State Senate redistricting plan that gerrymandered the one term State Senator out of his 22nd District. That district no longer includes Botetourt County, where Smith lives.  Forty four percent of his current district has gone away, said Smith.

“Common sense,” he said last week, would have placed Roanoke City (represented by Democrat John Edwards) and Roanoke County in the same district but that did not happen. After the next census in ten years, Smith expects the redistricting process to be taken “out of the hands of politicians.”

“No worries,” said the former Roanoke City mayor last week. Smith has rented a house in Roanoke County and is now a candidate for the new 19th District, which stretches from Campbell County through the Roanoke Valley, Bedford, parts of Montgomery County, all of Floyd County and on to portions of Carroll and Wythe Counties. Smith is moving in large part to avoid a primary with State Senator Steve Newman (R-Lynchburg), when his district was combined with Newman’s.

The resourceful Smith also revealed something else to an audience of well-wishers and GOP politicians at the Roanoke County administration building last week; he has ancestral roots at both ends of the district. Ninth District Congressman Morgan Griffith and 6th District colleague Bob Goodlatte were on hand to introduce Smith, as were retiring Delegate Bill Cleaveland, Roanoke City Sheriff Octavia Johnson and Bill Stanley, who is moving as well and will challenge Democrat Roscoe Reynolds in the 20th District.

Stanley now represents the 19th District in the Senate, where the boundary lines were again redrawn to exclude his residence. He’s now in the 20th. Stanley said Democrats “were afraid of a true and conservative leader like Ralph Smith. We stand in their way.” Turning over the 19th “to a bedrock conservative” like Smith, added Stanley, would be best for voters in the newly drawn district.

No Democrat has announced for the seat yet. Smith will “burn a little more gas” to get around the new district, providing he wins an August primary against any GOP challenger and the November general election.

Smith said he kept his promise in the General Assembly to vote against tax increases, obtained state funding for interchange improvements at exit 150 on I-81 and “remained committed to good government and efficiency.” Smith also said he did his best to make sure southwestern Virginia continues to get its share of the financial pie.

Griffith, the former majority leader in the Republican-dominated House of Delegates before being elected to Congress, said turning the Senate GOP as well would mean less frustration from “sending good bills over to the [State] Senate and watching them die.”

The redistricting plan drawn up and ultimately approved by the General Assembly “put the squeeze on a couple of people,” added Griffith. Smith said he has and will continue to butt heads with other Republicans in Richmond if he disagrees with their position. “It’s a good government thing,” he noted; “when our side does something wrong we need to stand up and concede that.”

Griffith said turning the state senate Republican can make a difference. “It’s very important that we have a conservative minded Senate … so that Virginia continues to outperform other states. They know that our government is sound – that there will not be a whole lot of unwise spending decisions made in Richmond. Ralph Smith will make sure our money is spent wisely.”

Smith said he was looking forward to meeting new people in all parts of the new 19th District if elected in November, even talking about going to the Floyd Country Store on Friday night for the Jamboree. “It’s certainly going to be an honor to represent all these communities,” said Smith, who unveiled a map that detailed the sprawling district he wants to be elected from.

“We’re going to make sure that you are reelected,” promised Goodlatte from the podium, “ We’ll roll up our sleeves.” Smith put it simply, as he usually does, saying “I intend to continue.”


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