The two candidates met virtually Thursday – discussing everything from COVID-19 to economic development.
David Bowers is running as an independent, and if he wins, it would be his third time as Roanoke’s mayor. He attacked incumbent Democrat Sherman Lea for taking too long to respond to gun violence in Roanoke this year.
Bowers said part of the problem is low pay for city police officers – leading to many vacancies:
“Now if we are going to continue to have a nationally-accredited police department, then we need to address that issue," he said. "Mayor Lea and the council has not addressed the issue of those 32 vacant positions.”
Lea criticized comments made by Bowers during his last tenure as mayor back in 2015. Bowers drew national condemnation when he connected the internment of Japanese-Americans by the federal government during World War II with a call to suspend assistance to refugees from Syria.
“He’s asked for forgiveness; people have forgiven him, but they haven’t forgot," Lea explained. "I was talking to the National Civic Leaders Board of Directors. They asked me who was my opponent – David Bowers. They said, ‘We asked him to resign.’”
Both candidates agreed that continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be a top priority.
Last year, Roanoke City Council voted to move the mayoral and council election to November. It was previously held in May.