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New delegate will be sworn in Wednesday

The newest member of the Virginia House of Delegates will be sworn in Wednesday afternoon, as Poquoson Mayor Gordon Helsel (R) takes the seat that was held by Del. Tom Gear (R-Hampton).

Helsel was unopposed and elected in a special election Tuesday. He is scheduled to take the oath in the historic House of Delegates chamber this afternoon, shortly after the Board of Elections formally certifies his win in a 4:30 p.m. meeting.

Gear, 61, resigned his House seat in December, citing the need to help his ill sister and wife, as well as health problems of his own. Gear said the stress of the annual legislative session worsened his multiple sclerosis, a degenerative neurological condition he has dealt with for three decades.

Gear’s seat was vacant during the 2011 regular session, though he returned to the House in February when delegates honored his sister, prominent Hampton attorney Kathy Gear Owens, who died Feb. 19.

Helsel beat four other Republicans in a Jan. 18 firehouse primary for the seat, but no Democrats ran against him in the conservative district. He takes office just in time to participate in April’s redistricting special election. He will have to run again for his newly drawn seat in November if he wishes to serve a full term in the House.

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