Friday, January 28, 2005
Ralph Smith confirms move to Botetourt County
If Del. Lacey Putney retires, the former Roanoke mayor says he will seek the GOP nomination for Putney's House seat.
The latest from our Blue Ridge Caucus politics blog
From The Roanoke Times
Former Roanoke Mayor Ralph Smith confirmed growing speculation Thursday night, telling a group of Botetourt County Republicans that he wants to run for Lacey Putney's state House seat when Putney retires.
Smith then quashed any doubts about the seriousness of his intentions by announcing that be became an official resident of Botetourt County on Thursday morning and several hours later signed a contract to sell Rockledge, his historic Roanoke home near the top of Mill Mountain.
"It's dear to me," Smith said of Rockledge, "but not near as dear as becoming part of this community."
Smith said a couple from Roanoke County, whom he chose not to identify, bought Rockledge, and he quickly eased any GOP concerns saying that the new owners are "good, solid Republicans."
Smith said he will live temporarily in a cabin he built on part of 100 acres he's owned for years outside Fincastle.
Smith said the cabin isn't suitable for a permanent home, but added that he's in no hurry to buy or build another house at the moment. Smith said he will live somewhere in the 19th House District, which includes Bedford and parts of Botetourt and Bedford counties.
Smith was applauded several times by Thursday's crowd, which packed the county board of supervisors chamber.
Smith was often frustrated during his one Roanoke mayoral term because he was the lone conservative Republican on city council, but he's now in a more GOP-friendly place.
The district's voters backed George W. Bush by substantial margins in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, and they also supported Republican U.S. Sen. George Allen when he defeated Democratic incumbent Charles Robb in 2000.
The district's Republicans now await a decision by Putney, who is pondering retirement. Putney, I-Bedford, has been a member of the General Assembly since 1961.
If Putney does retire, Republican leaders in his district said it's likely that Smith will have competition for the party's nomination.
One other name that's been mentioned is Joe Obenshain of Botetourt County, who was in attendance Thursday night. Obenshain, who ran unsuccessfully for a GOP state Senate nomination in 2003, indicated that he won't run if Putney announces his retirement this year.
When asked what he thinks of Smith, Obenshain smiled and didn't comment.
Botetourt County Republican Chairman Jim Crosby said Smith would be a worthy candidate. While serving as Roanoke's mayor, Smith attended many county GOP functions, Crosby said. Attempts to paint Smith as a carpetbagger may not resonate in Botetourt either, Crosby said, because it has a sizable percentage of suburbanites who have moved from Roanoke and Roanoke County in recent years.