Damaged campaign signs in Radford. Photo by Radford police.

Del. Chris Hurst, a Democrat from Montgomery County, tried to argue with a police officer who stopped him Monday evening after the woman he was with had been seen tampering with campaign signs of Hurst’s Republican challenger Jason Ballard in Radford, the officer’s incident report and bodycam footage show. Hurst at first denied being involved, but then defended his actions as a prank. 

The footage and video was obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request from Radford City Police by a Republican activist and confirmed by Cardinal News. 

Lt. Drew Szerokman pulled over Hurst’s vehicle at 9:27 p.m. Monday after a Radford sheriff’s deputy had spotted the woman, whom Hurst later referred to as his partner, taking and turning over campaign signs near the Radford Recreation Building, a local voting precinct. She then got into a car and left the scene. The deputy called Radford police for assistance in the traffic stop.

Szerokman identified Hurst as the driver and found out that his license had been suspended for failing to pay his car insurance. He issued a notification of driving with a suspended license, and then confronted him with vandalizing the campaign signs, which is a violation of state law. 

“Want to explain your actions?” he asked Hurst, who at first denied any wrongdoing. “That is really poor, Chris,” Szerokman can be heard saying in the video. “You got to resort to doing this instead of doing a fair election? Chris, quit playing. You all were up there, turning over signs at the polling area, and you’re sitting here acting like you don’t know what’s going on?”

Police bodycam footage of traffic stop involving Del. Chris Hurst, D-Montgomery County.

  Hurst then attempted to downplay his actions. “I really don’t feel like me responding to any questions that an officer has for me that are kind of asking me to make a value statement on that, is kind of immaterial to the question here,” Hurst said, staring into Szerokman’s flashlight. “I think I would say that something that is a little hijinks and steam blowing off is exactly something that everybody over on the other side of the mountain does, and people all over this district.”

Another damaged campaign sign. Photo by Radford police.

Szerokman can be heard groaning. “So you are going to resort to that?” he asked Hurst, who remained calm. “I need you to just do your job here tonight, and I’ll do mine,” Hurst responded before apologizing for actions that “I may have done, or that my partner may have done,” and accusing Szerokman of getting “a little emotional here.”

Szerokman denied getting the latter, but he told Hurst that it was the lawmaker’s duty to represent his constituents, and not to be “out here acting like a school kid.” He then asked Hurst how he was supposed to vote for him now. “Were you planning on voting for me?” Hurst countered. “That’s all up in the air now,” the officer said. 

More campaign signs that had been tampered with. Photo by Radford police.

After the traffic stop, which took about 15 minutes, Szerokman ordered Hurst and his partner to drive back to the polling site, where they fixed the “approximately 10-16 signs that either had been pulled up and laid down, bent over or placed upside down on the bases.” 

The news of Hurst’s latest traffic stop broke just hours after the polls opened in Tuesday’s gubernatorial and House of Delegates elections, which Hurst lost to his Republican challenger. It was Hurst’s second run-in with the law, after being pulled over for suspicion of drunken driving in Christiansburg in January of last year.  He was detained and released, despite failing the field sobriety tests and being over the legal limit.

Monday’s incident has been turned over to Virginia State Police at the request of Radford Police Chief Jeff Dodson. Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said Wednesday that there currently is no investigation into Hurst’s partner and that the agency cannot investigate any elected official without authorization from the attorney general’s office. 

Hurst has not yet responded to emails asking for comment. 

Markus Schmidt is a reporter for Cardinal News. Reach him at markus@cardinalnews.org or 804-822-1594.