2006-08-30 / News

Parties are gearing up for Midlothian race

By Greg Pearson

With just over two months to go, Chesterfield Republicans and Democrats are getting organized for the Nov. 7 election campaign. Republicans narrowly selected Don Sowder on Aug. 16, and the Democrats chose Dan Gecker last week.

At its monthly Chesterfield Republican meeting, Sowder acknowledged those who ran against him in the close race for the Midlothian seat and called for party unity, so Republicans could capture the fifth seat on the board of supervisors. Last month, the board appointed Independent Terri Beirne to represent Midlothian District until the November elections.

"We Democrats cancelled our caucus [last week] and united behind Dan," said Chesterfield Democratic Party Spokesperson Lynne Cooper. "There is a clear difference between the candidates. Dan is experienced. His Republican opponent isn't, and we look forward to many debates."

Gecker, 50, has served as Midlothian planning commissioner for the past six years and on the county's Committee on the Future for four years. Sowder, 69 and semi-retired, has an extensive background in business, the military and has worked with the Republican Party locally and statewide.

Republicans expect a good turnout in the election because Senator George Allen (R-Va.), Congressman Eric Cantor (Va. 7th District) and Congressman Randy Forbes (Va. 4th District) are running for reelection.

"The party will turnout, and that will help Don [Sowder] get elected," said one Republican. "Next year, it might be a different story."

Whoever is elected in November becomes Midlothian supervisor almost immediately after certification by the Registrar's Office. He would serve through Dec. 31, 2007.

County voters will choose all of their supervisors and school board members in November 2007 for four-year terms each. Voter turnout typically declines in years when there are no national races like 2007. Though the Midlothian District is heavily registered in favor of Republicans, former supervisor Ed Barber, a Democrat, was elected to four terms. In 2003, Barber ran unopposed when Republicans couldn't find a candidate to oppose him.

Shewmake joins party

Attorney Will Shewmake was accepted as a Chesterfield Republican Committee member. Shewmake, who lost by only 15 votes to Sowder for the Republican nod to represent Midlothian, was criticized by some committee members in angry e-mails prior to the party vote on Aug. 16. The committee went into executive session to consider his membership, excluding nonmembers and the media.

"For all those who sent e-mails against Will, not one had the courage to stand up in the meeting and speak against him," said one party member who supported Shewmake. The secret ballot vote had 59 votes for Shewmake and 14 against.

"Some of my supporters wanted me to run as an Independent, but I signed a pledge to support the Republican nominee," said Shewmake. "I'm looking forward to being on the committee and helping the party."

The committee unanimously appointed Robert Hodges to chair the Midlothian District. A Salisbury resident, Hodges is one of the owners of J. M. Fry Printing Ink.

The Republican committee is holding a Shrimp Feast at the Boulders Office Park, 7501 Boulders View Drive, on Sept. 29 from 4-7:30 p.m. The $20 ticket price includes a chance to meet Allen, Cantor and Forbes who are scheduled to attend. Visit for details.

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