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State Senate District 38 Special Election Date, Candidates

On New Year’s Day 2021, the Southwest Virginia delegation to the General Assembly and the Commonwealth as a whole lost a giant of a man. State Senator A. Benton “Ben” Chafin died of complications from COVID-19 on New Year’s Day. Let me begin by saying that our thoughts and prayers are with the Chafin family and the Southwest Virginia delegation as a whole.

This left an opening in the Virginia State Senate in Senate District 38. There were rumors, speculation, and numerous candidate names rumored or announced across the state.

Let’s get the rules of the Special Election first.

The Special Election itself will be held on March 23, 2021. The candidates must be nominated by their respective political parties by January 22, 2021. Here are the rules for the Republicans, along with a little backstory.

The 38th State Senate District Republican Legislative District Committee (LDC) met via Zoom last Tuesday. The goal of that meeting by some was to make a decision on method of nomination. However, a majority coalition led by Tazewell County Unit Chairman Kyle Cruey voted to table the method of nomination until the Governor issued a writ of election.

The Republican LDC met again Tuesday evening, where they decided the following.

  1. The firehouse primary will occur Thursday, January 21, 2021, from 1pm to 7pm.
  2. The nomination will be determined with a plurality. (This passed by a very slim majority.)
  3. The call for the firehouse primary will be published this Friday, January 15, 2021.
  4. The filing deadline for the firehouse primary will be on Monday, January, 17, 2021.
  5. Locations will be determined on a LDC zoom call meeting on Thursday.

This means that candidates have from yesterday evening, or in the case of candidate Jony Baker last week, until next Thursday to capture the Republican nomination.

Let’s start with the announced candidates.

Jony Baker is a Dickenson County Sheriff’s Deputy. Jony has an amazing story about being one of 10 kids and being adopted. He went on to serve his community as a Corrections Officer at the Red Onion State Prison, then working in the Dickenson County Sheriff’s Office. His twin brother is the Chief of Police in Pound, Virginia. Mr. Baker came out of the gate quickly and is swinging for the fences. Baker announced last Thursday, getting a head start on all the serious candidates (there was one candidate who announced earlier, I will address that in a minute). Baker already has a political army of staff that have descended on the district.

In addition, Lebanon Town Council Member Elijah Leonard announced Tuesday morning. Leonard is an Air Force veteran, small business owner, and an active member of the community. No word on who is running his race; however, he has an interesting backstory. He worked with General Assembly legislators to pass legislation to add testing for rare diseases for newborns in Virginia after the birth of his daughter. Veteran + small business owner + great backstory could equal political success.

Travis Hackworth announced late Tuesday evening. Hackworth is a Board of Supervisors member from Richlands, Virginia. The Tazewell County supervisor is a small business owner in the area. Hackworth sent an online poll out Sunday, and is being widely discussed that Mr. Hackworth is the choice of Delegate Will Morefield, who up until recently was rumored to be interested in running for the Senate seat himself.

At the same time, former Buchanan County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tamara Neo has updated her campaign website from her last State Senate race (from the 2014 nominating contest where Senator Chafin was nominated) to announce her campaign for the State Senate a second time. To be honest, Mrs. Neo makes State Senator Amanda Chase look like Socrates. Mere mention of her name in Republican circles in Southwest Virginia leads to eye-rolls, grunts, and multiple expletives. Neo was a leader in the Trump campaign effort in 2016, to the point that it annoyed many activists in Southwest Virginia. Her husband, Flux (no I didn’t misspell that) ran for office in Tazewell County as a Republican for Commonwealth’s Attorney in 2017 and lost.

Lastly, there is one more candidate who has announced their intention to run. Kimberly Lowe of Rawlings, Virginia, has announced that she is running for the seat. A simple google search will make you scratch your head because Rawlings isn’t in the 38th District. Rawlings is in Brunswick County, Virginia, a good two hours plus drive from the border of the 38th. Ms. Lowe, was a filed candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates [3] in Brunswick County up until last week. She even went so far as to run for a seat on the Republican Party of Virginia State Central Committee from the Fifth Congressional District as recently as two weeks ago. She apparently moved across the state in the middle of the night to run for office. Simply put, I have never heard of something so ridiculous as trying to carpetbag your way into a seat deep in coal country by moving across the state. Her blatant hunger to run for office reeks of desperation. To be honest, she will be lucky to get five percent of the vote.

In the world of unannounced candidates, retired Judge Chad Dotson has stated interest and at the time of writing, has not announced. Judge Dotson is a retired Circuit Court Judge and former Virginia political blogger. He is also a law professor at the Appalachia School of Law. Judge Dotson is a great guy who is genuinely liked and who many in the district see as the candidate with the inside track to the nomination.

Update: Chad Dotson announced overnight on Facebook that he will be run.

There will be more to come on this and many other races across Virginia on BearingDrift.com.