Virginia Republicans have nominated Del. A. Benton Chafin Jr. (R-Russell) to face off against Tazewell County Supervisor Mike Hymes (D) for the state Senate seat formerly held by Democrat Phillip P. Puckett.
Chafin beat out lawyer and former prosecutor Tamara Neo and banker George McCall for the nomination at a mass meeting Thursday. The special election to represent the 38th District, deep in Virginia coal country in the far southwest corner of the state, will be held Aug. 19.
Chafin, who is widely expected to win the election in a part of the state that has become solidly Republican over the past decade, would cement the GOP’s control in the Senate, made possible by Puckett’s resignation. A federal investigation is underway surrounding the circumstances of Puckett’s departure from the Senate, which came amid talks with Republicans over a state job for himself and a judgeship for his daughter.
With a temporary 20-to-19 Republican majority, the Senate last week passed a budget plan without Medicaid expansion, Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s top legislative priority. On Friday, McAuliffe vetoed portions of the budget, promising to expand Medicaid on his own and setting the stage for a partisan showdown with legislative Republicans.
Should Chafin win the Senate seat, McAuliffe would face a General Assembly with a GOP majority in both houses, making the remainder of his term more difficult.
Chafin won more than 50 percent of the vote at Thursday’s meeting, which attracted 834 voters.
“People are fired up and ready to send a message to Terry McAuliffe by taking back control of the Senate,” said Jack Morgan, a local Republican Party official who attended the meeting.
Morgan credited Chafin’s win to the groundwork and experience he brings to the special election as a state delegate.