Four Democrats have announced plans to run for the House of Delegates seat that will be vacated by Onzlee Ware, including two who formally jumped into the race over the weekend.
Roanoke City Councilman Court Rosen and local businessman Sam Rasoul said last week that they will run for the seat. Over the weekend, Trish White-Boyd and Keith Wheaton announced their candidacies. Councilman David Trinkle will decide this week whether to get into the contest.
The city’s Democratic committee will meet Thursday to decide on the party’s method of nomination.
Roanoke Sheriff Octavia Johnson is the lone Republican to announce for the 11th District seat.
White-Boyd and Wheaton are first-time candidates, but both have been active in civic affairs. White-Boyd, who has lived in Roanoke for nearly 30 years, owns a home health care franchise that serves seniors and disabled clients in the Roanoke and New River valleys. She worked for 18 years in the state Department of Social Services Division of Child Support Enforcement. She also has been active as a volunteer for President Barack Obama’s campaigns and other state and local Democratic candidates.
“I feel like there’s a lot I can bring to the table as far as diversity and I’m looking forward to that opportunity,” White-Boyd said in an interview today.
Ware’s seat is the last Democrat-held House seat in Western Virginia, but White-Boyd said women also are underrepresented in the region. She alluded to controversies surrounding social issues, which dominated the 2012 legislative session, and said, “We need to change the conversation back to the things that are important to the citizens of Virginia.”
“I think there are not enough of us,” White-Boyd said. “Certainly being a Democrat in this part of the state would be a great thing. Being a female, I think, would be an even greater thing. We just need more women to create some diversity so we can have some different conversations.”
White-Boyd said her policy priorities include reforming the state’s Standards of Learning, providing more and better vocational education opportunities for students who don’t go to college, and cracknig down on payday lending.
“It just really disheartens me that someone would pay 300 percent interest” for a short-term cash advance, she said.
“These things should be illegal,” White-Boyd said. “Our community is saturated with these payday lending places.”
Wheaton, a Roanoke native, emphasized his community involvement in a statement issued over the weekend. His participation in community and civic affairs, he said, “has allowed me to interact with a variety of residents from the 11th District, hear their concerns, negotiate solutions and act upon them.” Among other things, Wheaton has served on the city’s election precinct task force. He owns JBT Media Holdings, Inc. and Wheaton Consulting of Roanoke.
“I understand the struggles of small businesses in this very challenging economy, and will work to afford small business owners greater access to capital and tax relief,” Wheaton said.
“I look forward to a spirited debate of the issues of concern to Virginians in the 11th District, which include, but are not limited to, access to affordable healthcare, Medicaid expansion, equality in education, equal access to the justice system, economic empowerment, access to fresh and healthy food, and affordable housing,” Wheaton said.
Rasoul held a kickoff press conference this afternoon at Thelma’s Chicken & Waffles. In remarks to supporters, he recalled his own experience as a Roanoke school student who qualified for free lunches and overcame learning disabilities with the help of outstanding teachers.
Today, Rasoul said, “teachers “don’t have the latitude to be able to invest in our students the way some great teachers invested in me.
“The problem is we’re so busy trying to keep the floor at a certain spot that we’re not allowing some children to break through some glass ceilings that need to break through,” he said. “We need to make sure our schools are fully funded and our teachers are compensated fairly.”
Rasoul, who runs a small consulting business with a focus on health care, ran for Congress in 2008 and tried for Democratic mayoral nomination last year. Asked what he learned from those unsuccessful campaigns, Rasoul said: “I feel as though I’m so much more of an informed citizen. I’ve made so many friends and learned so much along the way. I certainly encourage all young people to be involved and I’m just fortunate and lucky to be able to be a candidate.”