News anchor Chris Hurst, whose girlfriend and another co-worker were gunned down during a live broadcast in August 2015, has left a Roanoke, Va., TV station to launch a campaign for the state House of Delegates, he said Sunday.
The WDBJ7 anchor’s final broadcast was Thursday night, and he resigned Friday. Hurst said he plans to file paperwork Monday to run as a Democrat for the 12th District seat held by Republican Joseph R. Yost.
“I can categorically tell you that my life was not going to be like this if it weren’t for the tragedy that happened,” Hurst said in an interview Sunday. “I knew that I couldn’t stay at the station, because it was just too emotionally painful for me.”
Hurst, who joined the station as a reporter in 2010 and became evening anchor in 2011, was struck by personal tragedy on Aug. 26, 2015. A disgruntled former employee, Vester Lee Flanagan II, 41, opened fire on reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, during an early-morning on-air interview at Smith Mountain Lake, about five hours southwest of Washington. Flanagan, who uploaded footage of the killings to his Twitter and Facebook pages, later shot himself in his car.
Hurst and Parker had dated for nine months, and Hurst said they had wanted to get married.
Anchoring the evening news, where crime, chaos and tragedy often lead the coverage, has been difficult ever since the shooting, Hurst said.
“I decided that anchoring the local news was not going to be something I felt was ultimately fulfilling,” he said.
In running for office, Hurst said he wants to tackle a wide range of issues, from parity in education funding, to giving businesses and start-ups incentive to relocate to southwest Virginia. He will also work to ensure “fewer families have to go through what I went through,” said Hurst, whose plans to run for office were first reported by the Roanoke Times.
Hurst supports universal background checks for gun owners and wants to give law enforcement the tools to remove dangerous firearms from dangerous situations — rather than just prevent their sale or transfer. At the same time, he said, “people think that I’m going to try to take everybody’s guns away and that’s the last thing I wanna do.
“I just wanna make sure that law enforcement knows who the most dangerous people in our communities are.”
Yost, of Blacksburg, could not immediately be reached for comment.
WDBJ Chief Meteorologist Robin Reed, who has worked for the station for 34 years, will fill Hurst’s role. The station’s general manager, Matt Pumo, announced Hurst’s departure in a memo to staff Friday.