A fundraiser that Roanoke Councilman Ray Ferris was planning to host for Attorney General Mark Herring was abruptly called off this week.
Ferris, in an email to invited guests, said the June 30 event was nixed by Herring’s camp at the request of Sen. John Edwards’ re-election campaign.
Edwards, a Democrat, was among those set to attend the fundraiser. A spokesman said the senator played no part in the event’s cancellation.
The fundraiser was being set up at Ferris’ law offices and would have benefited Herring’s One Commonwealth PAC. Organizers expected about 60 people to attend, and as recently as this weekend were firming up plans. News of the cancellation started circulating among supporters Monday and Tuesday.
Tommy Jordan, one of the event organizers, said he was told by the PAC director that the group was pulling out because Edwards’ campaign claimed major donors were upset and wouldn’t attend an event at Ferris’ office.
Jordan also said he has heard from donors who claim that Edwards’ staff was circulating a rumor that Ferris planned to ambush the gathering by announcing he was endorsing Donald Caldwell in the Senate race.
Caldwell, a Democrat, is challenging Edwards for the 21st District seat as an independent, creating a three-way race that includes Republican Nancy Dye, a retired surgeon. Caldwell is Roanoke’s longtime commonwealth’s attorney and a former employer, as well as current political supporter, of Ferris.
Ferris hasn’t made an endorsement in the Senate race and said Tuesday he has no plans to endorse anyone.
“It’s just simply not true,” he said of the rumors, adding neither the PAC nor Edwards’ staffers ever contacted him about the issue.
“I don’t know why they haven’t called me,” he said. “… It’s eerily quiet on my end.”
Sam Barrett, campaign manager for Edwards, said Edwards wasn’t involved in the decision to pull the plug on the fundraiser.
Barrett declined to comment on what, if any, role he and other campaign staffers played in the decision.
“My only comment is that John Edwards had nothing to do with the cancellation of this event, and he’s solely focused on trying to improve the quality of life for this region,” he said.
When asked about the cancellation, Adam Zuckerman, director of the One Commonwealth PAC, replied in an email: “This particular event was becoming a bit of distraction for local Democrats, but Attorney General Herring strongly supports Senator Edwards’s re-election and looks forward to getting out to Roanoke soon to support him and to help take back the Senate this fall.”
The sudden cancellation of the fundraiser, announced initially by the PAC with little explanation, created confusion among local supporters.
“I’m confused about all of it,” said Bittle Porterfield, a Herring backer who’s been a donor to One Commonwealth since last year.
Jordan, who’s long been active in Roanoke politics and has managed campaigns for Ferris, said he was shocked when he heard the insinuations being made about Ferris.
“None of this would have happened if they had made a phone call to Mr. Ferris or myself,” he said of the fundraiser, adding he wasn’t notified of the cancellation until after it was announced to donors.
In an interview Friday, Ferris spoke about Caldwell’s campaign launch and the broader status of the Roanoke Democrats.
Ferris, elected to his first term on council as a Democrat, cut ties with the Roanoke City Democratic Committee last year and sought re-election as an independent. He’s been critical of the local party committee and said it’s in disarray.
When asked last week if he’d be endorsing Caldwell for Senate, Ferris said Caldwell hadn’t asked for his support and added it was a “very ticklish situation” for him as he considers both Caldwell and Edwards to be friends.
“But quite frankly,” he added , “I don’t think anybody cares who I endorse.”