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Christiansburg restaurant owner seeks state House seat
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Christiansburg restaurant owner seeks state House seat

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Christiansburg businesswoman Marie March announced Thursday that she is seeking the Republican nomination to run for the state House seat that Del. Nick Rush, R-Christiansburg, is leaving.

March’s announcement came after Rush, who has served five terms as the 7th District representative, announced Wednesday that he won’t run for office again in November.

March, 43, owns the sister restaurants Due South BBQ and Fatback Soul Shack, located on Christiansburg’s Roanoke Street. She also invested in Christiansburg business incubator Bear Dance Market.

March and her family live in Floyd County.

March has for years been outspoken about local politics, particularly in Christiansburg, and is a supporter of former President Donald Trump. The businesswoman was criticized—and supported—for her decision in January to attend the Stop the Steal rally in Washington, D.C., the event that preceded the storming of the Capitol.

March has defended her actions, stressing that she left hours before the riot that turned deadly and that her decision to go was so that her father could hear Trump speak. She has said that she sees nothing wrong with showing support for the former president.

Among her critics was Del. Chris Hurst, D-Blacksburg, who later apologized for his more pointed comments. March said the issue with Hurst was one of the reasons behind her decision to seek state office.

“Honestly, everything with Chris Hurst and just watching what is taking place in our society over the last 10 to 15 years,” said March, who also announced her plans in a Facebook video in which she is seen holding Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat” book.

March said she will campaign on several issues, including addressing regulations that she says have hurt small businesses over the years. She recalled her own experience in Christiansburg, where some years ago Fatback—known for hosting live music—dealt with noise complaints.

Christiansburg around that time passed a new noise ordinance that received much criticism, including from March who questioned the measure’s practicality as it pertains to entertainment venues such as hers.

“I’ve come up against town government over those regulations, such as the noise ordinance,” she said. “I just see lots of bureaucracy and lots of red tape and I think a small business owner needs to get involved.”

In relation to the issue of bureaucracy, March said she wants to scrutinize government spending that she views as wasteful. For example, in Montgomery County, she criticized Christiansburg’s recent addition of wayfinding signs, questioning whether the most cost-effective option was sought for the initiative.

March also criticized a local bike sharing program. She said she’s not necessarily against the service itself, but questioned whether there was sufficient vetting of the demand for the bike share.

“Instead, we fork out all the money to just roll with it,” she said, clarifying that she’s aware the program wasn’t entirely started by local dollars. “Meanwhile there’s a homeless need in our community. There’s a real need for low-income housing.”

March, however, said she doesn’t necessarily want to single out the localities in the area and is certain other places across the state deal with similar challenges.

Pointing to the Bear Dance Market as an example, she said she is for policies that can help grow entrepreneurism and help prevent local high schoolers from leaving an area following graduation.

March said she is also a supporter of bringing passenger rail to the New River Valley, an initiative that did require some help from the state.

“Passenger rail is going to be great for this area. It’s going to open up commerce. It’s going to be fun,” she said. “I know that’s something people worked across the aisle with in the state.”

The other issue March is passionate about is gun rights, which she argues state lawmakers and Gov. Ralph Northam have undermined. March was among the many people over a year ago who urged Montgomery County to declare itself a Second Amendment sanctuary, something the locality’s governing body narrowly voted down.

March describes efforts to increase gun control as “tyrannical.”

“We hunt,” she said in reference to her family and about her personal life in Floyd County. “My Second Amendment right is a big deal to me … I feel it’s being undermined, infringed.”

March has allowed concealed carry classes to be taught at her restaurants, something she said many of her staff have taken.

Looking back at the controversy around her visit to D.C. earlier this year, March said she believes that much of the backlash she received was due to a major misunderstanding.

“Once people figured out I was at the speech, once they figured we were nowhere near the Capitol, I had a lot of people who ended up apologizing over the next few weeks,” she said.

March said she is also far from alone in her political views — including in the 7th District — and doesn’t see her support of the former president as a major setback.

“We’re busier than ever at our restaurants, we’ve had tremendous support,” she said. “We’re in red southwestern Virginia.”

March was raised in Kingsport, Tennessee, and studied engineering at Clemson University.

March said she moved to the area around the mid-2000s so that her husband, a doctor in Floyd, could attend the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg. She opened Due South in 2007.

If there is an intraparty challenger, the Republicans would hold a firehouse primary next month. Montgomery County GOP Chairman Harry Collins said Thursday that he expects a few people to announce their intent to run for Rush’s seat.

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