Jason Ballard, Republican challenger.

Updated 10:17 p.m. with additional race results:

Del. Chris Hurst was unseated by his Republican challenger Tuesday in a 12th District House of Delegates race marked by big money, a flurry of TV attack ads and an 11th-hour run-in with law enforcement.

With 84% of precincts reporting, Jason Ballard had pulled down 55% of the vote, including a strong showing in the traditionally Democratic-leaning Radford, which he carried. Ballard, 42, is an attorney, military veteran and member of the Pearisburg Town Council. His campaign focused on public safety, education and the economy. 

Hurst, a Democrat seeking a third term, had said he wanted to address congestion on Interstate 81, improve rural broadband service and increase access to mental health. Hurst, 34, was first elected in 2017 when he unseated Republican Joseph Yost. In 2019, he defeated Republican challenger Forrest Hite.

The 12th District race, identified by Ballotpedia as one of 25 “battleground” races in Virginia, was one of the highest-dollar contests in the state. The Virginia Public Access Project ranked it seventh out of 100 House races in the total amount of money raised as of Oct. 21: almost $2.3 million.

The mostly rural 12th had been seen by Republicans as one of several vulnerable to being flipped, The Washington Post reported this summer when the Republican State Leadership Committee PAC launched an advertising campaign in six House districts.

The 12th includes parts of Montgomery, Pulaski and Giles counties and the city of Radford and encompasses both Virginia Tech and Radford University. While the city of Radford and the portion of Montgomery County that sits within the 12th tend to vote Democratic, the more rural parts of the district run strongly Republican.

The 12th has long been a competitive district. Hurst won with 54% of the vote in 2017 and was re-elected with 54% in 2019. 

In this race, Hurst vastly outraised Ballard. As of Oct. 21, Hurst had brought in twice as much money as Ballard: $1.5 million to his opponent’s $776,700, according to VPAP.

Hurst’s total was the ninth-highest among all House candidates, according to VPAP; Ballard ranked No. 27.

The majority of Ballard’s funding – 70% – came from the Republican Party, caucus or candidate committees, VPAP reported. Party donations accounted for 37% of Hurst’s total. 

Together, the two campaigns spent nearly $975,000 on TV and radio ads, VPAP reported.

A flurry of Ballard TV spots accused Hurst of being “weak” on matters of reopening schools and teaching critical race theory and portrayed Hurst as a “radical liberal” for supporting an increase in the state’s gas tax. Ads also reminded viewers about a January 2020 incident in which Hurst was pulled over in Christiansburg on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. He was released with a warning and was not charged.

For his part, Hurst ran several TV spots equating Ballard and his supporters to former President Donald Trump on issues including masking in schools, COVID-19 vaccination conspiracies and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol: “Vote against Jason Ballard and Trump’s extreme agenda,” one of the ads urges.

It’s unclear whether a run-in by Hurst with police on Monday night affected voter turnout or election results. Hurst was stopped by police in Radford after a female passenger in his car was seen tampering with campaign signs near a polling place. Hurst was found to be driving with a suspended license and was issued a notification but not a ticket, according to the Radford sheriff.

The case was referred to Virginia State Police.

Statewide, Democrats outraised Republicans by more than 2 to 1 in House races during the election cycle, $50.9 million to $23.3 million, VPAP reported.

During the most recent reporting period, Oct. 1-21, the margin was even greater: Democratic candidates raised $13.7 million to Republicans’ $5.7 million.

Other races of note:

7th District: 

Also in the New River Valley, Republican Marie March defeated Democrat Derek Kitts to succeed Del. Nick Rush, a Republican who is retiring when his term ends.

March, a political neophyte and a staunch Trump supporter, owns restaurants in Christiansburg and Roanoke. She drew much social media attention after she attended the Jan. 6 Stop the Steal rally in Washington, although she has said she left hours before the riot at the Capitol and condemned the violence.

March, who took 54% of the vote in this year’s three-way GOP primary, also has said she’s in favor of school vouchers and believes that the government shouldn’t get involved in issues such as policies regarding transgender students.

Kitts is a combat veteran and business owner. This was not his first foray into politics. In 2016, he unsuccessfully challenged Morgan Griffith for the 9th Congressional District seat.

The 7th District has been represented by a Republican since Dave Nutter defeated Jim Shuler in 2001.

9th District:

Republicans will continue their hold on the 9th District, which has been held by the GOP since 1994.

Wren Williams, a Patrick County attorney, defeated Democrat Bridgette Craighead, a community activist and entrepreneur.

Williams won the GOP nomination by handily beating seven-term incumbent Charles Poindexter in the Republican primary with 63% of the vote. A Trump loyalist, Williams was part of a team that represented the former president during vote recounts in Wisconsin last year. He has been vocal in his opposition to the teaching of critical race theory in public schools.

In an interview with The Roanoke Times, Williams also emphasized the need for broadband in rural areas, and about the lack of a hospital with an emergency room in Patrick County.

Craighead, who founded Franklin County’s Black Lives Matter chapter, received national media attention during debates over Confederate flags and monuments in Franklin County, and when two former Rocky Mount police officers were charged with participating in the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Other contested races:

  • 8th District: Republican incumbent Joe McNamara defeated Democrat Dustin Wimbish, who dropped out of the race but remained on the ballot.
  • 11th District: Democratic incumbent Sam Rasoul defeated Republican Charles Nave.
  • 14th District: Republican incumbent Danny Marshall defeated Democrat S.M. “Rhett” Deitz.
  • 16th District: Republican incumbent Les Adams defeated Democrat Chance Trevillian.
  • 19th District: Republican incumbent Terry Austin defeated Democrat Wendy Rowden and Libertarian Dean Davison.
  • 22th District: Republican incumbent Kathy Byron defeated Democrat Greg Eaton and Libertarian Sarah Jerose.
  • 23rd District: Republican incumbent Wendell Walker defeated Democrat Natalie Short.
  • 24th District: Republican incumbent Ronnie Campbell defeated Democrat Sam Soghor. 
  • 59th District: Republican incumbent Matt Farris defeated Democrat Benjamin Moss and independent Louis Scicli.
  • 61st District: Republican incumbent Tommy Wright defeated Democrat Trudy Berry and Libertarian Joey Paschal.

Megan Schnabel

Megan Schnabel is a reporter for Cardinal News. Reach her at megan@cardinalnews.org.