Travis Hackworth beat five other candidates in a firehouse primary Thursday to secure the Republican nomination for the vacant state Senate seat in the 38th District.
The seat was opened after Republican Sen. Ben Chafin, 60, died from complications related to COVID-19 on Jan. 1.
Hackworth, a member of the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors and owner of several businesses, has said Chafin was a mentor. He will now face off in a March 23 special election against Radford resident and presumptive Democratic nominee Laurie Buchwald. A nurse practitioner, Buchwald served on Radford City Council and ran for the 12th District house seat in 2015, losing to incumbent Joseph Yost.
The GOP primary results—according to information posted by the Ninth District (Congressional) Republican Committee—early Friday morning were as follows:
Hackworth, Tazewell County: 1,932.
Chad Dotson, Buchanan County: 1,313.
Elijah Leonard, Russell County: 1,200.
Tamara Neo, Tazewell County, 736.
Jony Baker, Dickenson County: 272.
Kimberly Lowe, Tazewell County: 32.
Hackworth visited multiple voting sites throughout the district Thursday, including the New River Valley’s precinct, according to a staffer campaigning for him in Dublin. The district includes Bland, Buchanan, Dickenson, Pulaski, Russell and Tazewell counties, the cities of Norton and Radford plus portions of Montgomery, Smyth and Wise counties.
“Thank you ALL for all your support!! I am humbled by the turnout you all brought out!! It was amazing!!,” Hackworth wrote on Facebook late Thursday night.
Hackworth touted his ability to create jobs in the private sector at a virtual candidate forum earlier this week, stating he would be able to do the same thing as the 38th District’s senator.
He also said he is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, noting that Tazewell County was the first to declare itself a Second Amendment sanctuary last year after a Democratically-led General Assembly passed multiple gun legislation bills.
Hackworth did not immediately respond to a request for comment following his victory Thursday night.
Buchwald said through a news release that Southwest Virginia is struggling, has borne the brunt of the pandemic and has suffered economically for too long.
“[The region] is longing for a voice in Richmond that puts partisan politics aside and gets results for our region and people. I believe that I am that person,” she said in the release.
Chip Craig, chair of the Radford City Republicans, said he was happy with the turnout by Pulaski and Radford residents Thursday at the New River Valley Fairgrounds, with voters from each locality voting in separate lines with different colored ballots. It was Dotson, a professor at the Appalachian School of Law, who was the clear winner among NRV voters in the 38th.
“We [38th District Committee] met so much this month in preparation for today and I think we did a great job and had a fantastic turnout with only having such a short time to plan everything,” he said.
Radford resident Gary Harris said he was especially motivated to come and vote Thursday after President Joe Biden won in November, an election that he said he believes was rigged against Donald Trump.
Harris said his biggest concerns are fighting against abortion and for the Second Amendment, while also getting the pandemic under control and reopening the state in a safe manner.
Voters who turned out for the Republican firehouse primary were asked to sign a “statement of intent,” pledging that they would support any and all Republicans that run for public office, and voting otherwise would bar them from participating in GOP activities for the next four years.
State senators make $18,000 annually and serve four-year terms. The 38th District seat will again be open in 2023, based on the timing of Chafin’s death.
The deadline to become a certified candidate for the March 23 election is 5 p.m. Friday, according to the state’s election website. The deadline to register to vote in that election, or to update an existing registration, is March 16. Requests for an absentee ballot must be made by 5 p.m. on March 12.