Floyd County voters head into local elections Tuesday (Nov. 3) with a rare number of races that provide choices at the polls.
Four races provide contests — three on the ballot and a fourth because of a write-in with endorsement from the county Republican party.
The county-wide Sheriff’s race generates comment in newspaper, television and social media circles because of negative campaigning by one side of the two-man battle to replace retiring Shannon Zeman.
Jimmy Howery, a 72-year-old retired state trooper and fired deputy who served as court bailiff for 10 years, issued a lengthy list of charges and claims that have been largely discounted by media investigations and a detailed response by the department’s retiring chief investigator and evangelical pastor.
Jeff Dalton, the department’s longtime chief investigator and minister at Slate Mountain Church, compared Howery’s comments to antics by the Barney Fife character of the old Andy Griffith television show and endorsed longtime deputy Brian Craig for election as Sheriff.
Brian, a longtime deputy who has served in nearly all positions of the department, including school resource officer and investigator, appears — according to financial finance reports — to have collected many more contributions to his campaign than Howery.
Howery kicked off his campaign with a $400 loan from himself and added another $2,000 to his campaign chest from his own pocket. His contributions came largely from out of the county, including a Blacksburg funeral home, a Roanoke accountant, two Montgomery retirees and residents from Roanoke and Patrick counties.
Howery’s largest contribution was $1,000 from Joe’s Garage, owned by Joey Kaylor, the controversial and self-described “hateful mechanic” and a convicted felon who entered a guilty plea in 2012 for embezzlement. Fire destroyed the original location of the garage on U.S. 221 in 2014 on the same weekend Kaylor faced eviction from the premises by the landlord.
Records filed with the Virginia Department of Elections show Howery’s loans of $2,400 were the primary source of funding for his campaign plus $2,100 in donations from eight contributors — six from outside the county.
Brian Craig’s financial reports show contributions overwhelmingly from inside the county and a check of the list did not find any contributors with colorful or questionable backgrounds.
Craig has endorsements from police organizations and widespread support from rank-and-file law enforcement officers. Howery has not been endorsed by any police organization or law enforcement entity. Even though he is a retired Virginia State Trooper, the State Police and troopers in Floyd County have stayed out of the race.
The county-wide race for Sheriff will be watched as the ballots are counted after the polls close on Tuesday.
Another former deputy, Joe Turman, is running for re-election as Supervisor from Burks Fork, against two opponents: Oddfellas Cantina owner Kerry Underwood and DJ’s Drive-In proprietor Michael Schumann. Underwood also owns a legal moonshine distillery and is part owner of Republic of Floyd while Schumann is a firefighter for the Floyd County volunteer department.
Underwood is also the only Democrat on the ballot for county races Tuesday.
In Little River District, retired executive Eddie Worth, who runs the Internet Safe Surfing operation in the county, is the Republican party endorse candidate running against independent Realtor Linda DeVito Kuchenbuch, who serves as an announcer for school athletic events and for the video productions of Citizens Telephone Co-operative. Both are running for the open seat creating by the retirement of Virgel Allen, who is not leaving politics and is running, with GOP endorsement, as a write-in for School Board in Little River.
The only school-board contest on the ballot, however, is in the Burks Fork District, where Laura Harman LeRoy, parent of school children and wife of a military veteran of action in the Mideast, is pitted against Becky Howell, a tea party activist.
The school board race is heightened because of continuing controversy over the actions of School Superintendent Kevin Harris because of complaints about his temper, treatment of faculty and parents.
In state-level races, a contest creating interest comes from charges and counter-charges between incumbent State Senator John Edwards, a rare-pro gun Democrat with endorsement from the National Rifle Association, and Republican Nancy Dye and independent Don Caldwell, Roanoke prosecutor.
In the 19th Senate District, Democrat Mike Hamlar is running for the seat left vacant by Ralph Smith. He’s up against David Suetterlein, and Steve Nelson.
Here at Blue Ridge Muse, we are also watching the race of area author and fellow motorcycle rider Mike Abraham, who is seeking a Board of Supervisors seat in Montgomery County.
Polls open at 6 a.m. Tuesday and close at 7:00 p.m. Voting this year returns to paper ballots, which could result in some delay in tabulation and determination of some races.
And old joke tells us to “vote early and vote often.” The phrase is attributed to Chicago gangster Al Capone, former Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley and former Illinois governor William Hale Thompson.
Voter turnouts often decide “off-year” elections. The number of voters that actually show up on the polls can, and often will, sway the odds.