Who will Democrats run for the open seat in the 20th House District?

virginia general assemblyI’ve been selling the 20th House District seat as a possible Democratic pickup in November, and honestly, I was doing that before Dickie Bell, the Republican incumbent, announced last month that he will not seek re-election this year.

It would seem to be the time for somebody on the D side to take the ball and run with it, but, that ain’t happening right now.

I’d heard from a local media friend who would know that the talk was that Waynesboro Mayor Terry Short was thinking about making a run at the Democratic nomination, which, that would have been ideal.

As I’ve detailed, the district, which stretches from Highland County in the west to Nelson County, on the other side of the Blue Ridge, is basically Staunton, which is 60 percent Dem, and Waynesboro, which is now roughly 50-50 D/R.

The two cities are close to 60 percent of the district. The rest is split between Nelson, which leans D about 55-45, and Augusta and Highland, which are 70 percent-plus R.

Give me the mayor of one of the cities, and especially the mayor of the 50-50 city of the two, as the Democratic candidate, and I’ll give you a D pickup.

Except that: not happening.

I reached out to Short, a friend and neighbor, to try to confirm what I’d been told, and he told me, in essence: no dice.

Michele Edwards was the 2017 nominee, and she ran well that November against Bell, getting 42.6 percent of the vote, falling short in her upset bid by 3,147 votes.

That was, by far, the best showing by a Bell challenger, even better than Erik Curren, now a member of the Staunton City Council, did head-to-head in 2009, when Bell and Curren were both challenging for what was an open seat that fall.

A challenger hadn’t gotten more than 28.7 percent in any of Bell’s previous four election contests.

As of right now, Edwards doesn’t appear to be ramping up toward a November 2019 campaign. She does maintain a campaign Facebook page, but the link from that page to her campaign website from 2017 is dead.

The Facebook page does feature as the top post a reference to Bell’s announcement that he will not seek re-election. Supporters commenting on the post are imploring her to make a second run at the seat, but she hasn’t addressed her thoughts on the matter to date on the thread or elsewhere on the Facebook page.

And … that’s what I know.

Which, as you can see, amounts to nothing.

Column by Chris Graham

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