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Democrat Mayoral Candidates Make Final Pitch Before Primary

Sam Rasoul

by Valerie Garner

Incumbent Mayor David Bowers’ campaign for re-election is based on the progress Roanoke has achieved during his term. The Roanoke City Schools are accredited and the graduation rate is up. “We have a remarkable school system,” Bowers told the Roanoke Valley Democratic Women at their monthly meeting.

The crime rate is down with “some work to do in some neighborhoods.” Police Chief Chris Perkins’ Drug Marketing Initiative will target drug dealers giving them the opportunity for a second chance or jail.

Bowers touted preservation initiatives like the Mill Mountain conservation easement and the Greenway that will someday connect with the surrounding localities.

During his term “all kinds of jobs have been created,” said Bowers. The future for Roanoke’s economy is in arts, culture and tourism. The museums and zoo “need our help … they need a long term plan,” he said. “This will give Roanoke an economic development model to promote the economy in Roanoke.”

Bowers wants to see universities in Roanoke. Examples he gave were “a pharmacy school, a law school and an art school.” He also wants to encourage expansion of the Smart Beginnings preschool initiative.

“Keep a good thing going,” is Bowers’ message.

Mayor David Bowers

At a previous fundraiser Bowers told supporters that his opponent had hundreds of thousands of dollars in his campaign coffers. Bowers has raised over $35,000 in his campaign with a $25,000 check coming from a single contributor.

Rasoul addressed that saying, “Unfortunately we are not going to be blessed with the rumor of hundreds of thousands of dollars coming from all corners of the world … The biggest donor in this campaign is myself.” Not being the institutional candidate, Rasoul said he doesn’t have access to a lot of deep pockets.

Bowers has sent out mailers and dropped literature at doorsteps. Rasoul is also running a ground campaign knocking on doors and using social media.

Bowers claimed that he will not encourage continuation of the two-cent meals tax for RCPS that is slated to end in July. “That was the pledge to the people of Roanoke and I’m going to keep my pledge,” said Bowers. “It’s a matter of honor in a sense.”

His opponent Sam Rasoul said he would keep the meals tax permanently but reduce it. It would be used to “pay our teachers a fair wage,” he said. It will keep teachers from moving to other localities.

Localities will have a harder time making ends meet with funding reductions from the state and federal government and burdening them with mandates. As chief financial officer for Kissito, Rasoul believes his experience will help the city “do more with less.”

He pointed to job loses at ITT and Food Lion and job creation misses like the Solstas Lab expansion that is expected to go to North Carolina instead of Roanoke.

He said most of the governor’s Job Opportunity Fund goes to northern Virginia. Rasoul says he wants to be “a strong voice to say let’s bring those jobs here … make sure that Roanoke is in the conversation.”

Rasoul also plans to run a positive campaign. “I have a vision for the area that gave me so much … a vision for the valley that raised me and I want to give back.”

On his website Rasoul asks Roanokers to vote on a list of ideas. The one receiving the most votes will get a jump-start with half of his mayoral salary.

Rasoul said he grew up in Roanoke living in a downtown one-bedroom apartment. He said he worked two jobs to pay his way through college while helping his parents pay the mortgage. Rasoul attended Roanoke College and then received his master’s degree in international business in Hawaii.

He lived in Botetourt County prior to moving to the city a few months ago. Rasoul, in answer to the “the residency question,” said he lives in the Wildwood neighborhood at Glade Creek apartments.

Rasoul’s message – “We’ve got to think outside the box in order to move this city forward  … we have to create an inclusive conversation with the citizens of Roanoke.”  He said he would not run as an Independent if he loses the primary.

The Democratic Firehouse primary is Saturday, February 4th at William Fleming High School between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Republicans will nominate their council candidates on February 23.

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