Travis Epes (left) talks with voters, including GOP delegate Marie March, outside the library during the GOP canvass Saturday.(Photos by Doug Thompson)

Epes beats Branscom by 69 votes for Commonwealth’s Attorney

A canvass is not a traditional primary election, but it is used often by Republicans to select candidates.

Assistant Pulaski Commonwealth’s Attorney Travis Epes, who lives in Floyd County wih his family, beat incumbent Floyd County Commonwealth’s attorney Eric Branscom in 321-252 in a canvass limited to one polling place (The Floyd Library) with six hours to vote (8 am to 2 pm).

Ironically, the last time voters ousted a Commonwealth’s Attorney in Floyd Count was when Branscom beat incumbent Gordon Hannett in the 2007 GOP primary. Branscom. Later in that year, Branscom lost to Stephanie Shortt in the general election. Seven years later, Circuit Judge Marc Long appointed Branscom to the job when Shortt became a juvenile judge for the court district.

Branscom ran for election in 2015 and 2019, winning both times, including beating Epes. Branscom often angered county GOP leaders because he refused to march in lockstep to the increasingly hardcore right-wing movement that now controls the party. He advised the county board of supervisors that they had no role in supporting and using a county militia and called the gun fanciers “nothing more than a gun club” that could not have a role in county security unless appointed and approved by the governor. He was citing the law, not Second Amendment propaganda.

The militia has faded away after attempting to pack the GOP party leadership offices, but supporters of such grounds became an enemy of the county’s chief prosecutor. He also got on the wrong side of the board on other issues, especially ones that cost money. Relatives and friends of those he prosecuted and sent to jail became enemies with long memories.

The now-retired Judge Long, in a letter to the editor to the Roanoke Times, endorsed Branscom, saying: “In his eight years serving Floyd County, I’ve seen the hard work and dedication that makes him one the best commonwealth’s attorneys in the state. He has zealously prosecuted drug dealers, child molesters and other heinous criminals.”

Travis serves af the legal counsel to the county Republican party and is one of three assistant proecuters for the Pulaski Commonwealth’s Attorney. Like Branscom, he is a transplant to Floyd County with a wife and son, who attended Floyd County Schools.

He cites 15 years of prosecuting experience and has argued cases involving murder, drugs, sexual abuse, child abuse and more. He says he will use a “record of success in the courtroom home to Floyd.”

I don’t like canvasses. On a sabbatical from newspaper reporting, one I later regretted, I worked as a politcal operative for six years for the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Committee and the National Senate Republican Committee at a time when the GOP condemned the use of canvasses instead of traditional elections in primaries.

“Canvasses are a way to shortcut and subvert democracy,” House Republican Leader Bob Michel told me in 1981. “It allows zealots to avoid the wishes of a majority of voters.”

Eric Branscom talks with supporters outside the Library, which is the polling place.

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2 thoughts on “Epes beats Branscom by 69 votes for Commonwealth’s Attorney”

  1. ““Primaries are a way to shortcut and subvert democracy,” House Republican Leader Bob Michel told me in 1981. “It allows zealots to avoid the wishes of a majority of voters.””

    Do you mean canvasses?

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