For the first time in 16 years, the race to be Roanoke Circuit Court clerk will be a competitive one, but its outcome will likely be decided by Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
Two candidates are competing for their party’s nomination: longtime incumbent Brenda Hamilton and challenger Terri Price, a senior probation and parole officer.
No Republicans are seeking their party’s nomination Tuesday to run for the office. Independent candidates still have time to file to run, but their deadline is 7 p.m. Tuesday — the same time the primary polls close — and, as of Friday, a city election official said no independent candidates had filed.
As things now stand, the Democratic candidate who wins Tuesday’s primary will run unopposed in November.
Circuit court clerks who win election in Virginia serve eight-year terms. In Roanoke, the position pays a minimum of just over $132,000. It is the city’s second-highest paid constitutional position, behind commonwealth’s attorney.
The chief clerk supervises a staff of more than 20 deputy clerks and is responsible for recording city deeds, issuing marriage licenses, creating and preserving court records, and deciding probate issues.
Hamilton started in the office as a deputy clerk in 1976. She became its chief after a successful campaign in 2003, then ran unopposed for re-election in 2011.
In early January, Hamilton announced her run for a third term at the Jefferson Center. Roanoke’s mayor and vice mayor, its sheriff, a councilwoman and about 60 others turned out to offer support.
“Customer service will always be the top priority in my administration,” Hamilton, 65, told the crowd.
Roughly one month after her announcement, a challenger emerged: Price, 40, of Roanoke, who has worked for the Virginia Department of Corrections for the past 14 years. She recently received her master’s degree in public administration from American Military University.
“As a probation officer, I have regular contact with the clerk’s office and the court system,” Price said Thursday. “I’ve always been passionate about helping others. I’m excited about the position and moving Roanoke forward.”
Both have spent the past several months campaigning at events and going door-to-door, but otherwise their approaches have largely contrasted.
Hamilton’s has been aggressive. According to the Virginia Board of Elections, she raised well over $20,000 in contributions and has put that to work, hiring a campaign manager and field director; maintaining a website; printing hundreds of yard signs, door hangers and mailers; buying Facebook ads; and, in May, producing a television commercial, a first for her.
“The response and support have been tremendous,” Hamilton said of her campaign.
“This is the best job I’ve ever had,” she added. “I’ve shaped an office where everyone who walks through that door is treated to outstanding customer service.”
During her time as clerk, Hamilton said she has married more than 4,000 couples. It’s a service she said she’s happy to provide but one that also draws revenue.
“That’s over a quarter of a million dollars that has gone back to the locality,” she said.
Price for her part has run a more modest, self-contained campaign. She said she has not sought donors, just supporters, and she contributed virtually all of her $5,000 campaign fund herself. More than half of that money went toward her filing fee; her second largest expense was a billboard in March at the corner of Melrose Avenue and Westside Boulevard.
She said she’s not daunted by the high-profile endorsements her opponent has received.
“It’s normal for elected officials to support the incumbent, but we live in a democracy. The voters of Roanoke deserve options,” Price said.
She said her platform rests on three points: “Strengthening the relationship with outside stakeholders, providing a supportive work environment for those in the clerk’s office, and offering personalized customer service.”
“I think Roanoke needs a change. There needs to be some vibrant new energy,” Price said.
Brenda Hamilton online: http://bit.ly/2I260Fy
Terri Price online: http://bit.ly/2K36fCP