State Senate 38th District Republican Forum Grades

On Tuesday the Radford City Republican Committee held a forum of the Republican candidates for the 38th State Senate special election. All candidates, including retired judge and Appalachian School of Law professor Chad Dotson, Supervisor Travis Hackworth, Lebanon town councilman Elijah Leonard, attorney Tamara Neo, Dickenson County Deputy Sheriff Jony Baker, and Kimberly Lowe.

As usual, I will provide grades on the performance of the candidates. These are my personal opinions.

Retired Circuit Court judge and former Commonwealth’s Attorney Chad Dotson – A

I cannot lie. I love Judge Dotson.

Judge Dotson brings up thoughts of Atticus Finch. You can picture him late at night, lawbook and glass of whiskey in hand, with his mind at work creating conservative legal philosophy. His belief for the law of the Constitutional Republic will not be shaken, his principles unmoved, his values unwavering. He is an expert of the law. His foundations in the law are written on the solid bedrock of the United States Constitution, never eroding from the cause of freedom.

His Honor’s answer on drug courts was a fantastic example of how our justice system continues to grow as we learn more about the crisis of drug addiction. Southwest Virginia has been crippled with opioids, cocaine, and worst of all, methamphetamine. His stories of tears in courtrooms as families have healed from addictions is the all too real story of the plight of Southwest Virginia.

Your Honor, you’re my Atticus Finch. Just like Atticus Finch went to Montgomery, there isn’t a doubt in my mind about you going to Richmond. His Honor can carry the district with pride.

Dickenson County Deputy Sheriff Jony Baker – A

While I’m making references to characters in the southern lexicon, I must make the comparison of Deputy Baker to that of Andy Griffith. Much like Andy, his love for his community and his affection for public service shine through. The sense of genuineness is something that cannot be taught by consultants or campaign staffers. It’s something that is learned through a life of community service. Deputy Baker is a common man, not made rich by careers in business or law. He is the definition of a public servant.

His answer on the issue of life was utter and sheer perfection. His short answer about the fact that he is pro-life because he was adopted was perfect. My friend Delegate Emily Brewer, who was also adopted, could use a partner in Richmond on working to change our adoption laws.

Jony’s honesty and realness shine through. Fantastic work, Mr. Baker. You can be proud of your efforts and I can also see you serving in Richmond.

Tamara Neo – A

I admit it, I hate the taste of crow. However, I have to eat crow in this statement.

I don’t know what has changed from the Tamara Neo I thought I knew, to the Tamara Neo that showed up to this forum. She’s unconventional, she’s different, but she’s talking about the right issues. She talks about the issues in a way that most politicians don’t discuss the issues. Her poise shone through. Her answers were, to be quite frank, damn near perfect.

I literally was cheering when she gave her answer on diversifying the economy. We can have a diversified economy in Southwest Virginia outside of coal and manufacturing. I really appreciated the points she made on tourism, Appalachian culture, and our natural beauty as an economic asset.

The Tamara Neo that I thought I knew didn’t show up tonight. The poised, confident, and thoughtful candidate I listened to could go to Richmond with ease. Mrs. Neo, if you’re reading this, I owe you an apology.

Lebanon Town Council Member Elijah Lenoard – B+

Mr. Leonard is a young man on a mission. You can just tell it. He wants to make his community stronger, he shows his chance to make the community better, and he wants his area of the state to grow. His energy and passion is fantastic for this race.

However, and the reason I’m grading him a little lower, I feel like I needed to learn more about him. His story is great, but he could have told more about himself. Mr. Leonard shows great opportunity. His youthful spirit is sorely needed in Virginia politics.

Tazewell County Supervisor Travis Hackworth- C


OH, I’m sorry, I fell asleep there. I apologize. I fell asleep because Mr. Hackworth has to be the most boring candidate I have ever heard.

While I’m making southern comparisons, Mr. Hackworth reminds me of the Boss Hog of Tazewell County without the excitement or the horned Cadillac. He talks about how he runs Tazewell County like he’s a mafia don and how much money he’s made, without showing any real connection to the people he is trying to represent.

His answers were bland, his presentation was vanilla, his lack of conviction was boring. I cannot find a word other than boring to describe Mr. Hackworth. If you want bland and boring establishment politician with the charisma of stale Cheerios, vote for Supervisor Hackworth.

Kimberly Lowe – F

God Almighty, where did we find such an unqualified candidate for public office?

As I referenced in my first post about this race, Ms. Lowe is carpetbagging in Southwest Virginia. You can tell that she just doesn’t belong in this field. She doesn’t even get the Southwest Virginia twang right.

First off, Ms. Lowe kept ranting and raving on, and on, and on, and on, and on again about how she was the only person running who had a staff to help her. This a completely farcical lie, every candidate in this race has a team behind them, and the other teams are serving their staff much better than Ms. Lowe’s team (whoever tinfoil hat-wearing weirdos they are).

Her bizarre answers on topics without explanations are just utterly baffling. I find her to be just an odd duck. I cannot for the life of me figure out what in the hell she’s talking about! She is one sad, strange person, and she has my pity.

The firehouse primary for this district will be this Thursday, January 21. Please keep tuned in here for more coverage.

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