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Democrats select Tazewell County Supervisor Mike Hymes to run for Phillip P. Puckett’s seat

Democrats nominated Tazewell County Supervisor Mike Hymes to fill the state Senate seat left vacant by Sen. Phillip P. Puckett (D-Russell).

Should Hymes win the Aug. 19 special election, he would restore Democrats to control of the Senate, which they lost when Puckett resigned recently. The district has grown increasingly Republican in recent years and is widely expected to flip to the GOP. Puckett was first elected to the seat in 1997.

At least three Republicans are seeking their party’s nomination, according to local GOP officials. They are lawyer and former prosecutor Tamara Neo, banker George McCall and state Del. A. Benton Chafin Jr. (R-Russell). The Republican nomination is scheduled to be decided Thursday.

Puckett’s resignation facilitated the passage of a state budget plan without a Medicaid expansion, a sticking point between the House and Senate for much of the year. It also left Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) with a GOP-controlled General Assembly that largely opposes his legislative agenda.

Hymes was the only name filed by the 5 p.m. deadline for nominations Tuesday, Brian Hieatt, a local Democratic Party official and the sheriff of Tazewell County, said in a telephone interview.

Hieatt cited Hymes’s long involvement in Virginia’s coal-mining industry as one reason he would make a good candidate in the large, rural district, which has suffered severe job losses in recent years because of the industry’s decline.

“As a third generation coal miner and an executive with the James River Coal Company, Mike Hymes is the best candidate to protect our coal workers, coal jobs, and our way of life,” Hieatt wrote in a news release.

With the special election coming up so soon, Hieatt said Hymes will have to cover a lot of ground in little time to generate enough voter support in time.

The 38th Senate Republican Legislative District Committee will hold a mass meeting Thursday evening to nominate a candidate for the Senate seat.



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