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RoxAnne Christley and Joe McNamara have listed Roanoke County’s debt as a top priority.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Roanoke County Board of Supervisors candidate Joe McNamara folds pamphlets before setting out to campaign on Wednesday.
KYLE GREEN | The Roanoke Times
Roanoke County Board of Supervisors candidate RoxAnne Christley readies a political sign on Bent Mountain on Thursday.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Eyes fixed on the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors, two Republican hopefuls will square off in Saturday’s GOP firehouse primary for a chance at the Windsor Hills District seat currently held by Ed Elswick.
Both RoxAnne Christley and Joe McNamara have listed the county’s debt as a top priority, but have distinguished themselves by highlighting their backgrounds and motives. The winner will face Elswick, a Republican turned independent who is running for re-election.
A brash personality known for her longtime work with the local Republican Party, Christley has staked out positions that put her among the tea party faithful, eschewing all tax and fee increases while trumpeting the need to trim the county’s multimillion-dollar debt above all else.
In recent months, Christley has invested in roadside campaign signs, a vigorous door-to-door effort to reach potential voters, and even traveled to Richmond to attend a Virginia Federation of Republican Women campaign school.
Her active role in two Roanoke Valley Republican organizations has led her to the presidency of the local chapter of Republican Women. Still, Christley insists: “I’m not a politician, I’m a mom.”
Indeed, her six children — at least three of whom she has enlisted as campaign staffers — are the reason she’s running for supervisor, she said.
“I work really hard for my kids’ future,” she said. “It’s a long-term thing.”
Still lacking a deep familiarity with specific issues that face the county, Christley focuses her attention on ideological matters of debt and national politics. As for what she would seek to change locally, she said she will learn more about those issues if elected to the board. Like several other Republicans in the field this election cycle, she has aimed her barbs at traffic roundabouts, the Vinton library project and the long-finished Green Ridge Recreation Center.
“If you and I were in debt at all, and we kept buying things we wanted … they would take our car and take our house and put us in jail,” she said. “A debt of $200 million is a moral outrage on our children.”
Her determination to win the primary has, during interviews, left her sputtering insults at her opponent, McNamara.
“When you fire someone, do you rehire them?” she asked, referring to McNamara losing his seat to Elswick in 2009. “Not normally.”
Her opinions teeter between loyalty to her principles and the idea she can play Solomon, considering all sides of an issue and coming to an equitable decision.
As for how she plans to work with a board already divided by tension: “If they have angst, it’ll be straight with me,” she said. “And I’m not going to fight, I’m going to lead.”
Her experience growing up in a military family will help her navigate any tricky terrain, she added.
“I have pretty tough skin,” she said. “You have the right to your opinion and I have the right to mine.”
Christley gets campaign advice from a mysterious Republican Party operative in Richmond, but she is remaining mum about his identity.
“I have a pseudo campaign manager that I can’t name, probably because he’d get in trouble for what he does,” she said. “I don’t think he’d lose his job or anything, it’s just a compromising position.”
Christley said that in primary races where Republicans have an opponent, the party typically waits before making an endorsement. The operative’s help could be seen as an endorsement, she said.
Calm and calculating, McNamara is looking to reclaim his old seat on the board of supervisors, and he’s touting his previous time on the board as a means to winning.
Armed with a list of potential voters, McNamara’s doorbell-ringing campaign has led him to front stoops across Windsor Hills, where he distributes his leaflets and talks county shop with residents. A small-business owner with a background in accounting and finance, he cites his experience with budgets and the board as reasons to give him their votes.
He does not cringe at mention of libraries or other capital projects, but he does stress a tight budget management style with a focus on creativity and changes that could have broad effects if implemented.
Musing about the looming and expensive issue of storm water management, McNamara said he would like to explore the possibility of making it a regional focus by tucking it into the Western Virginia Water Authority. He has also considered the county government’s day-to-day operations, and posed questions about how to eliminate inefficiencies
McNamara established himself as a middle-of-the-road conservative at an April 25 tea party forum, where he denounced the idea of new taxes, but he trod lightly when asked about the board’s policy regarding restricting the number of chickens that can be kept in neighborhood zones. He also said he supports the county’s current position on nonsectarian prayer to open board meetings and has no intention to try to repeal it and go to court.
“I’m not going to go blindly stamping forward so I can pat myself on the back and be $1 million poorer,” he said.
When asked if he felt his constituents “fired” him in 2009, McNamara demurred.
“Primaries, in general, have very low turnout,” he said. “It’s not representative of everybody. I don’t see that as a clear indication that I was fired, per se.”
Indeed, in that primary McNamara lost to Elswick by 17 total votes, despite his handily carrying four of six precincts. He attributed the loss to the concerted effort of Elswick’s boots-on-the-ground team on Bent Mountain, which produced a large turnout of primary voters. Christley was a member of that team.
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