Establishment Democrats Parachuting in Reporter to Run for 12th House District Seat

Southwest Virginia’s political scene was rocked Friday when WDBJ7 (Roanoke CBS affiliate) 6 o’clock news anchor Chris Hurst announced that he was moving to Blacksburg to run for the 12th District House of Delegates seat. The seat is currently held by Delegate Joseph Yost, who was first elected in 2011.

The Roanoke Times reports:

“Former Roanoke newscaster Chris Hurst plans to run for the House of Delegates against Del. Joseph Yost, R-Pearisburg.

Hurst, whose girlfriend, reporter Alison Parker, was killed during an on-air shooting in 2015, resigned as anchor at WDBJ-TV (Channel 7) on Friday. Saturday, he said that he has moved from Roanoke to Blacksburg, where he will file paperwork on Sunday to seek the Democratic nomination in the 12th House District…

…“This will certainly be one of the biggest House races this year, and maybe even bigger than the governor’s race,” Yost said in a phone interview Saturday. He said earlier this week that he plans to run for re-election. On Tuesday, Democrat Andrew Schultz filed to run in the 12th House District.

Hurst, 28, had worked at Channel 7 for nearly seven years before deciding to mount a campaign for public office. Born and raised near Philadelphia, Hurst has not held office before, and he knows that, because of the national attention that WDBJ and he received after the 2015 shooting, guns will be an issue in the race.

He said that even though reducing gun violence will be a prominent part of his campaign…

Protecting the environment will be a priority, said Hurst, who said he fears there will be “continued rollbacks of some needed regulations to make sure our waterways and our property [don’t] become polluted.”

We need to establish some back story on Mr. Hurst before we begin to assess his political calculation. Mr. Hurst has been a local TV news anchor on the CBS affiliate in Roanoke for the past 6 years. In August 2015, Mr. Hurst’s girlfriend and co-worker Alison Parker was shot in a horrendous shooting that was shown on live television. After that, Mr. Hurst and Andy Parker (Ms. Parker’s father) began to advocate for pro-gun control candidates. Shortly after the shooting, Mr. Hurst was seen at an event for Michael Bloomberg-affiliated organization, Everytown For Gun Safety. At the event, Hurst was spotted standing with Senators Kaine and Warner rallying for gun control.  It’s no secret before Friday that Mr. Hurst wanted to insert himself in the political arena. However, we did not expect him to parachute into a different district to do so.

This past Friday, Mr. Hurst tweeted the following:

Speculation began as to where Mr. Hurst was going to run for public office.  According to sources close to Bearing Drift, Mr. Hurst’s last known address where he was registered to vote was located safely in the 17th House District, which is currently occupied by Republican Chris Head. Speculation abounded across the Ronaoke Valley as to who Mr. Hurst might run against. It was also reported last year that he met with the DCCC, potentially to challenge Congressman Bob Goodlatte. However, WSLS 10 (WDBJ7’s rival station) reported late Friday night that Mr. Hurst would move to Blacksburg to challenge Delegate Joseph Yost. It was then reported by the Roanoke Times. 

The Twitter war commenced. Mr. Hurst probably wasn’t expecting the rural GOP units of Giles and Pulaski County to be so social media savvy. However, the attacks rained down on Mr. Hurst all day Saturday and Sunday.

Hurst responded by saying he knows a lot about the district because “I have covered a lot of stories there.” Ok.

Yost’s House colleagues also joined in the barrage:

From Delegate Glen Davis: 

This is what is wrong with politics. Hurst thinks he can move into the 12th House District and better represent the citizens there than Del. Joseph Yost who grew up, went to school, and started a family there. Del. Yost is also one of the biggest champions of mental health reform. Given the personal experience of Hurst and the history of that district, one would expect Hurst to be supportive of Del. Yost, not attempting to remove him from office.

The Democrats certainly responded. Those who, like Mr. Hurst, have never lived in the 12th district took the lead.

And the real kicker came from Democratic Party of Virginia Communications Director.

(Yes, her tweet was in response to yours truly).

In a time when Democrats are turning to radical progressives like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Tom Periello; it seems that Mr. Hurst would like to the blessing of the Democratic Establishment. The Democratic Establishment is already singing his praises, regardless of the fact that Mr. Hurst has never lived in the 12th District.

Mr. Hurst is not only not from the 12th, he does not share the values of Southwest Virginia. In the Roanoke Times article announcing his candidacy, Mr. Hurst expressed his views for gun control and stricter environmental policy. Mind you, this district contains Giles County, which some consider the start of coal country. They also like their firearms too, hence the reason Delegate Yost has been endorsed by the NRA in the past 3 election cycles. Yost also won all of those elections, and in 2015 he won with a wide margin.

However, in a twist of fate, Hurst doesn’t even get a clear shot at the nomination. Mr. Hurst is being challenged by an unemployed graduate student from Fairfax. The Roanoke Times reports:

Schultz, a Bernie Sanders supporter in last year’s presidential election, would have preferred running as an independent, but felt like he wouldn’t have a good chance at winning unless he ran as a major-party candidate.

Last year, Schultz was convicted of misdemeanor assault for an incident that occurred after his car had been towed to an impound lot in Radford.

On Feb. 18, Schultz entered the impound lot, and attempted to retrieve his car without paying the towing fees because his car had been illegally towed, he said. As he drove his car out of the lot, an employee tried to stop him by jumping in front of the car, he said.

At the time, Schultz was charged with reckless driving and assault. In August, Schultz signed a plea deal and was given a $100 fine and six months of suspended time.

Schultz was born in Fairfax County and attended middle and high school in Virginia Beach. While he is job hunting**,  he stays home to take care of his 4-month-old son. He is not married.

The main point is, Mr. Hurst is parachuting into a district he doesn’t know, with the support of a wing of the Democratic Party whose power is waning. He knows nothing of the district, let alone know anything about the values there.

Mr. Hurst will have trouble connecting with the district that he is not familiar with, and Joe Yost is no slouch.