Hurst met Alison Parker at the WDBJ news station in Roanoke in 2012. She was a summer intern and he was already “a local celebrity, distinguished by his auburn hair and anchor gravitas,” as Ian Shapira wrote for The Post.
“I think I came off as gruff and intimidating,” Hurst told Shapira years later. He showed the rookie how to pull a search warrant but otherwise rarely spoke to Parker that summer.
“Two years later, she was hired full-time as a morning reporter, and Hurst found her impossible to ignore,” Shapira wrote. “She was beautiful, but also funny, accomplished and smart.”
They went to lunch, and then went hiking on their days off. And they spent Sunday mornings watching the news together, and somewhere in there they fell in love.
By the summer of 2015, they shared a two-bedroom condo and various promises.
“One day, Parker would trade morning features for harder-hitting stories,” Shapira wrote.
“One day, she’d become a news director.”
One day, he gave her a ring and they promised to marry each other — when they were ready.
“People were imagining a Channel 7 wedding aired live on TV,” Hurst told Shapira.
Nine days after he gave her the ring, on Aug. 26, 2015, Hurst woke alone to the ring of his cellphone, Shapira wrote.
It was the station calling, and there would be no wedding.
A former reporter named Vester Lee Flanagan II — who had been fired from WDBJ the year after Hurst and Parker met — had returned to the station, in a sense.
He had taken his video camera and his gun, and traveled to the shore of a mountain lake where Parker and her cameraman, Adam Ward, were interviewing a chamber of commerce official that morning.
Flanagan shot all three of them on live TV, and filmed his own footage to put online. He killed himself a few hours later as police closed in.
Only the chamber official survived the lakeside interview. Afterward, Hurst had to find a way to keep on living.
For a while, he was able to do this through his work. A country that had just watched two murders on live TV now watched Hurst play anchor to his grief.
He went on camera the next morning, holding a scrapbook Parker had made of their romance.
“We only had nine months together but it was a white-hot relationship that burned full of love,” Hurst said, and opened the book.
“I miss her voice.”
Hurst stayed on at the station for a long time. He helped finish a series on hospice care that Parker had started. It was called “The Long Goodbye.”
But he would later speak of an existential crisis, a search for meaning to his life, and the pain of trying to continue in a job he had once shared with the love of his life.
“Hurst made the break in February” of this year, Gregory S. Schneider wrote for The Post. “He said farewell after an evening newscast, announced that he was running for office as a Democrat and moved to a basement apartment in Blacksburg with his dog.”
The decision was, if not stunning, at least a great surprise: A 30-year-old TV reporter would become a Democratic politician and try to win the 12th District in Virginia House of Delegates, which had been held by a Republican since 2011.
“I came through the other side believing that I wanted to stay here and give back to the people who gave me such strength and support when I needed it,” Hurst told Schneider.
He picked the year to do it in.
Democrats have not controlled the chamber for two decades, the Associated Press reported. But in 2017, Schneider wrote, they saw the 12th as “a beachhead in a region that once seemed untouchably red.”
On one side of a mountain that divides the district, working-class white voters had turned out heavily for Donald Trump, Schneider wrote. On the other, they had voted against him.
Hurst campaigned on both sides on the mountain.
“I know I’m sweatier and not as made-up in person,” he said at one house, Schneider wrote. “Just here more to listen than anything else.”
Some voters had seen him on TV. Some had seen the murders and cried at the sight of him.
Hurst ran an unusual race in a polarized country, Schneider wrote. While many expected him to campaign on gun control, he told voters that both he and Parker liked to shoot. He didn’t want broad restrictions.
He fought for the political center, as did his opponent, Del. Joseph R. Yost. By August, Schneider wrote, the two ran almost neck-and-neck in fundraising.
“If there was a party that was just the No B.S. party, I’d be a charter member,” Hurst told Schneider.
Democrats had been hoping to crack the 12th, so Hurst’s victory was probably not the biggest shock of Tuesday night.
But analysts had expected the party to flip no more than a few seats, the Associated Press reported. Instead, Democrats took at least 15 by the end of the night, The Post reported — two seats shy of controlling of the House, and the counting continued into Wednesday.
Hurst walked out into a cheering crowd in Blacksburg on the night of his victory. He praised his defeated opponent as a good man, good father and good husband.
Then he spoke of why he ran.
“I think all of us last year were wondering, where is our country going?” Hurst said. “And I have said from the very beginning of this campaign that I know what that feeling is like.
“I’ve also said I never wanted any one of the votes I received tonight to be out of pity, or to be out of sympathy for what happened in the murders of Adam and Alison.”
From the crowd, the New York Times reported, Alison Parker’s parents watched Hurst speak.