Chris Hurst ’09 beat a three-term incumbent in the Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday, two years after his girlfriend, Alison Parker, was fatally shot during a live news broadcast.
The Blacksburg Democrat and Broadcast Journalism graduate, left his job as a reporter and anchor at WDBJ-TV Channel 7 early this year to seek the seat, a move he said on his campaign website was spurred in part by the death of Parker. He ousted Del. Joseph Yost, R-Pearisburg.
After years of asking questions as a journalist, Hurst said, he decided to look for solutions.
“Your continued prayers and support now give me the strength to move forward and be a courageous fighter for all Virginians,” Hurst wrote. He ran on a platform of education; health care, including mental health services, opioid addiction, and reducing gun violence; and protecting the environment.
Hurst’s victory was part of a sweep of Democratic wins across Virginia, including the election of Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and the state’s first openly transgender candidate and fellow journalist Danica Roem, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. Pending recounts, a 32-seat GOP advantage could be erased, the paper reports.
A native of the Philadelphia area, Hurst moved to Southwest Virginia a decade ago. While at Emerson, Hurst was a “terrific student” who was deeply involved in broadcasting at the College: WEBN, Emerson Independent Video, the Emerson chapter of Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) and WERS, where he won the Mike Morgan Award, said Associate Professor Marsha Della Giustina, who taught Hurst. After Parker was killed, he helped set up the Alison Parker-Chris Hurst Journalism Mentorship Award, she said.
Della Giustina said she kept in touch with Hurst, and he told her he and Parker had discussed his eventually going into politics.
“When Alison got murdered, he and I were talking, and he said, 'I think I'm going to go for it,'” Della Giustina said.
Having followed the race closely, Della Giustina said she knew it would be a tough one, Yost being an incumbent and a Republican in a red district. But she also believed he would win, and she thinks he'll rise even higher in politics.
“He engages with people, he's interested in people, he cares about people, and that's what he did as a reporter and anchor, and now this,” she said.
“He does his homework, he'll be available to everybody, [and] he'll make a big difference in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”