Hermie Sadler.
Hermie Sadler. Courtesy of Sadler.

Hermie Sadler, a former NASCAR driver and wrestling promoter and entrepreneur from Emporia, has made his entrance into politics by seeking the Republican nomination in Virginia’s newly created 17th state Senate District. 

Sadler, 53, whose family has owned businesses in Emporia for decades, currently operates two convenience stores in the area, plus a racetrack-themed restaurant, and a truck stop. He officially kicked off his campaign in front of 250 guests at his Fo Sho Bar and Grille on Wednesday evening.    

“We can’t let this opportunity pass by to have more focus and attention put on areas in and around Southside Virginia, because in my view this area has been underrepresented in the Senate for way too long,” Sadler said in an interview with Cardinal News. 

“We have our own set of problems and our own set of needs, and I feel like somebody needs to stand up and make sure those needs are heard and represented in the Senate of Virginia. That’s why I have decided to get off the sidelines and get in the race.”

Del. Emily Brewer, R-Suffolk. Courtesy of Brewer.
Del. Emily Brewer, R-Suffolk. Courtesy of Brewer.

Sadler said that since Wednesday’s announcement, his campaign has already raised more than $125,000. He will be facing a nomination contest against Del. Emily Brewer, R-Suffolk, who announced her bid in January.

“I am proud of what I have accomplished with my colleagues to improve broadband access and stand with law enforcement,” Brewer said in a statement then. “I have opposed costly tax hikes, advocated for Virginia’s children, and stood up for our values in Richmond. In the Senate, I will stand up for life, the 2nd Amendment and traditional values.”

Until the Virginia Supreme Court approved new legislative maps last December, Emporia and its surroundings were part of the former 18th Senate District, which was represented by state Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth. Besides Emporia, the district included Greensville, Sussex, Brunswick, Isle of Wight, Southampton and Surry counties, and the cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Portsmouth and Suffolk. 

The 17th District runs from Brunswick County and part of Dinwiddie County in the west to Isle of Wight County, Suffolk and part of Portsmouth on the east. The special masters tasked with redrawing the maps found that the district is 51.5% non-Hispanic white, and 48.5% Black. Because it is a new district, it currently has no incumbent.  There is also no announced Democratic candidate yet.

Sadler said that he filed his paperwork with the Department of Elections three weeks ago, but held back with his announcement until after Tuesday’s elections. “I wanted to allow people to be focused on the midterms,” he said in the interview.

If elected, Sadler said he wants to primarily focus on inflation and its impact on small businesses in the district. “Because I operate multiple businesses and I deal with a lot of farmers and construction companies, I know that they are dealing with rising costs and inflation,” he said.

Sadler’s other priorities include protecting 2nd Amendment rights (“my family and I are outdoorsmen and hunters, so that will be a big issue”) as well as supporting law enforcement and public education, especially school construction.

Sadler is also an advocate for special needs children, because his 24-year-old daughter Halie is on the autism spectrum. “Because of our daughter we understand the challenges families have with special needs kids in our district, and we saw first hand the struggle to get the right services and the missing opportunities for special needs children as they become adults,” he said. 

Unrelated to his political ambitions, Sadler made news in the past 12 months because he is fighting to have Virginia’s ban of skill games overturned in court. 

The 17th state Senate district. Courtesy of Virginia Supreme Court.
The 17th state Senate District. Courtesy of Virginia Supreme Court.

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