A third contender is entering the race for Roanoke County’s top prosecutor.
James Steele, an attorney in private practice, said he hoped to build on the office’s strong record in part by bolstering options for pre-trial diversion services and expanding efforts to curb recidivism.
Steele, 38, said it was vital to be not just tough on crime, but smart on crime. Non-violent offenders, including addicts caught in the growing opioid crisis, can benefit from alternate approaches that help them from advancing further down a dark road, he said.
“There are more tools we can consider to keep people from starting down a path that is very hard to come back from,” he said.
The region already has come to recognize that through initiatives like its drug court program, Steele added. But those efforts can be expanded on to help more people, he said.
This is Steele’s first bid for public office. He filed to run as the Democratic nominee.
Other contenders seeking the office of commonwealth’s attorney are Brian Holohan, a Republican, and Dirk Padgett, an independent.
Holohan was a prosecutor in Roanoke County for 11 years before going into private practice. Padgett was a longtime prosecutor for Bedford County and the U.S Navy. He’s also currently in private practice.
This marks the first time in over three decades that Roanoke County has had a contested race for commonwealth’s attorney. Incumbent Randy Leach retired in January.
The deadline to file for party backing in the race was Thursday. Because Steele and Holohan were the only hopefuls to file with their respective camps they will immediately secure their party’s nomination.
That means the race won’t appear on the primary ballot this summer. Independent candidates can file until June 11.
Steele has a local law practice handling traffic cases, criminal defense work and civil matters. He said he thought highly of the county prosecutor’s office and praised the work it’s done on behalf of the community.
But he said he also saw opportunities that could be seized on to make the process more effective for all concerned. He outlined plans that included streamlining the traffic court process to reduce wait times and publishing case statistics and other metrics for community review.
In their own respective campaign announcements, Holohan and Padgett had emphasized in part their records as prosecutors.
Holohan said he wanted to continue his work fighting for the county and its families. He offered strong support for the drug court program and highlighted his experience advocating for children in the court system.
Padgett vowed to be a fair but tough hand who would crack down on criminals. He called for building on regional cooperation in prosecutions and said he’d ramp up the pursuit of child predators, an issue he worked on in Bedford County.
Election Day is Nov. 5. Candidates in other local races who filed to run as a party nominee by Thursday’s deadline include:
- Catawba District Supervisor: Martha Hooker, a Republican, seeking election to a second term.
- Cave Spring District Supervisor: Paul Mahoney, a Republican, and Brian Powell, a Democrat. Incumbent George Assaid isn’t seeking another term.
- Windsor Hills District Supervisor: RoxAnne Christley and David Radford, both Republicans. This will be the only contested local race on the June 11 primary ballot.
- Commissioner of the Revenue: Nancy Horn, a Democrat, seeking election to a sixth term.
- Sheriff: Eric Orange, a Republican, seeking election to a second term.
- Treasurer: Kevin Hutchins, a Republican, seeking election to a fifth term.