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Dems Open Local Regional Headquarters

Freeda Cathcart cuts the ribbon with former Governor Tim Kaine.

by Gene Marrano

There’s an old political joke: a guy says, “I’m not a member of any organized political party – I’m a Democrat.”  Local members of the party are trying a different tact, with upcoming Roanoke City Council elections in May and the national contests this fall – they’ve opened something called the Blue Ridge Democratic Headquarters at 1917 Franklin Road (room 106A), in an office building behind the Ramada Inn.

Freeda Cathcart, who lost her bid for the House of Delegates to Republican Chris Head recently, spearheaded the effort to open an office that can be used as a nerve center for campaign efforts by Democrats in Roanoke City, Roanoke County, Salem, Botetourt County and beyond. “The Blue Ridge Democratic Headquarters will provide a place for fellowship, trainings and the ability for Democrats to connect with citizens in southwest Virginia,” said Cathcart, who has not shut the door on a future run for office.

Just before he headed for a downtown Roanoke meet-and-greet, former Governor Tim Kaine stopped by to help cut the ribbon on the small, two room office, where 40 or so well-wishers were on hand. Kaine will face off against another former governor, Republican George Allen, for retiring Senator Jim Webb’s seat this fall.

“This is something very new – it’s the first regional Democratic headquarters,” Cathcart told those gathered as she moved through the room with Kaine in tow.  “A lot of people are dissatisfied with the way Congress is going…they want to get involved. We have so much more to do.”

Also on hand was Sam Rasoul, who is challenging David Bowers for the Democratic nomination for Roanoke City mayor. A primary or mass meeting is expected to be held in February, before the May general election, according to Rasoul, a 30 year old who ran unsuccessfully for Congress against Bob Goodlatte in 2008.

“I believe I clearly bring a different vision,” said Rasoul, who wants to focus on jobs with livable wages and being fiscally responsible. He likes the idea of a regional office: “When I first ran for Congress it was a little disappointing to me to learn how fragmented things were. The city really didn’t know Democrats in [Roanoke] county and vice-versa.”

Kaine’s campaign will open its own Roanoke headquarters but the former Governor said they would work closely with the newly established regional office. First things first: campaign workers were still collecting some of the 10,000 signatures he needs to be placed on the ballot.

“There’s been petitions in the news recently,” said Kaine with a grin, a remark that drew laughs from those on hand. Kaine was referring of course to the failure of several Republican presidential candidates to gather 10,000 valid signatures, leaving them off the March primary ballot. Kaine said he expects to file his petitions in early April. “It’s going to be great to work together.”

Cathcart also singled out businessman Ssunny Shah, who owns the Ramada Inn and other local hotel properties, and the office building at 1917 Franklin Road that he purchased from Carilion. “This would not be possible without him,” said Cathcart, who looks forward to the new office being a nerve center. “I really wanted this to be a place of support.”

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