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The end of an era

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By John Barnhart

    The line-up of people who want to replace Delegate Lacey Putney appears to be complete.  Early last month, Joshua Ball announced that he’s the Constitution Party’s candidate for the 19th House of Delegates seat. Then, early this month, Republicans chose Terry Austin in a firehouse primary. Finally, Lew Medlin announced that he is, again (is this his third or fourth time?), the “Democrats’” candidate. The “Democrats” had scheduled a firehouse primary for May 30, but that won’t be necessary as Medlin seems to be the only one interested in the Democrat’s nomination. So, he’s their candidate by default, again.
    I expect Austin to be the winner this fall. I don’t think the Constitution Party has the wherewithal to successfully compete against a Republican nominee. Medlin is also in an uphill battle. While he is a major party nominee, he’s running as a “Democrat” in a heavily Republican House of Delegates district. He seems to be the “Democrats’” candidate because nobody else wanted the nomination. I’ve always thought their choice of animal mascots is appropriate, but even they can read past election results and understand that the odds are strongly against their candidate winning in November. In addition, I don’t expect Medlin to get much help from the state “Democratic” Party as they will want to concentrate their resources on more competitive races. They will also be putting a lot into this year’s gubernatorial contest.
    Austin, a member of the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors, seems to have a lot of support there. Furthermore, being a Republican in the 19th House district will carry a lot of weight.
    However, while Austin will fill Lacey Putney’s seat, he won’t come close to filling Lacey Putney’s shoes. He will enter a legislative body, where seniority rules, as the new guy on the block. He won’t be able to come close to having the clout that the man who drives a car with a license plate with just the number “1” on it has.
    In any case, he probably won’t mean as much to Bedford County as Putney did because the 19th House District now is Allegheny County and Botetourt County. After the 2010 census, only a small portion, a narrow tongue of it, extends into Bedford County in order to include Putney’s Forest home in the district.
    It’s the end of an era.
    Another interesting change is coming on the Bedford County Board of Supervisors as District 3 Supervisor Roger Cheek, who has held that seat since 1995, won’t be running for reelection. In this case, it won’t be the end of an era. Eighteen years is nothing like 52. Furthermore, Steve Wilkerson, the person who will take that seat in January, will be able to fill Cheek’s shoes. I’m predicting that Wilkerson will win in November because time is running out for an independent to file for the seat. Anybody running as an independent will need to have his paperwork complete and turned in to the county registrar by June 11 and, as of this writing, nobody has started that process. Furthermore, Wilkerson is running as a Republican, which will carry a lot of weight in Bedford County. The “Democrats” won’t be running a candidate as having the “Democrats’” endorsement is the kiss of death in a Bedford County race.
    I believe Wilkerson will be able to fill Cheek’s shoes because he shares Cheek’s philosophy on keeping the county business friendly. He’s also served 18 years on the planning commission as the District 3 representative. This service means that Wilkerson knows how the county’s government works as well as Cheek does. Cheek has expressed his confidence in Wilkerson by always reappointing him to that post, in spite of the fact that he tried twice to unseat Cheek in elections. That, along with showing what sort of man Roger Cheek is, also shows Cheek’s view of Wilkerson’s competence.