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Chris Hurst Goes to Richmond

When the Virginia General Assembly convenes next month, there’ll be a lot of new faces. Among them, New River Valley Democrat Chris Hurst.  His race turned out to be most expensive in state history and part of the blue wave that rafted more Democrats into the house, than we’ve seen in a generation. 

Chris Hurst ran a grass roots, shoe leather campaign, knocking on doors and talking to anyone who would open them.  His background as a TV news guy, and a stint in retail before that, turned out to have been good training for winning a close race with a popular incumbent.

“What it reaffirmed for me is that I like talking to people and like people and I like talking to people and everyone in our campaign had that same passion and spirit.”

And during the campaign Hurst demonstrated that perhaps more than anything else, he is a ‘people person.’  Yes, he’s a Democrat but maybe it’s his news background of bipartisanship and balance that sometimes had him blurring party lines in the campaign.

Karen Hult chairs the political science department at Virginia Tech. She points out, Hurst went to places in Giles county and elsewhere in the district, where people did not expect a Democratic candidate to go. No so much necessarily to get votes but simply to assure people that, whether or not they voted for him, he’s still going to be their delegate.”

Hult adds, “He may be new to government, but he’s not a neophyte. He was a fairly well-established journalist who had done a fair amount of political reporting.  Nonetheless, it’s an exciting time. He’s part of a new wave of delegates coming into Richmond.  And we still don’t know who is going to control the House of Delegates so there’s an awful lot of energy locally and in Richmond.

And there was a lot of energy last November 7th.  News of Hurst’s Victory came in fast to a packed house of supporters at the Blacksburg Hilton, many of whom had tears in their eyes as they realized there were more Democratic winners than expected.

In just a few weeks, he’ll join them in what appears to be a closely divided state legislature that offers at least some possibility of achieving goals he campaigned on.

Hurst says his number one issue is economic development, which goes hand in hand with community develop.  Support the infrastructure of schools, broadband, health services and anchor economic development to them.

“One of the main things we ran on was expanding Medicaid.  It looks like that’s going to happen in some form or fashion, which is absolutely tremendous.  I’m very glad for the thousands of people, not only in my district, but across the commonwealth that will have access to health insurance.”

Hurst would like a seat on the education committee. With Virginia Tech, Radford university and New River Community college in his southwestern Virginia district, he represents some 40-thousand students.  He’s already introduced a bill that protects their private phone numbers and email address. He also supports bringing back the Virginia Student Loan Refinancing Program, which we used to have, which would allow you to refinance your student loan debt through the commonwealth to get a reduced interest rate.  And the commonwealth would be the beneficiary of those interest loan payments. Eventually, it would make the commonwealth money.

And here’s something else Hurst brings from his previous profession, to his new gig.

“In 10 years in journalism it’s run the gamete of people who’ve called me up and tried to get me to listen to what they have to say and to be an active listener and to care about whatever was troubling them.  It’s something I think prepares me for this new role in elective office where, if you have an issue or you have something that you think I need to pay attention to, I’m going to pay attention to it. I’m going to listen to you.”

The 2018 Virginia General Assembly convenes Wednesday, January 10th.

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.
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