Not only did the NRA's A-rated incumbent lose in a Virginia state delegate race, he was beaten by someone who ran on a platform that advocated for gun control. Meet Chris Hurst, the newly elected Democrat to Virginia's House of Delegates. His backstory is one that you may already familiar with: In 2015, his girlfriend, Alison Parker, a 24-year-old journalist, was fatally shot on live TV together with WDBJ7 cameraman Adam Ward as 40,000 people watched.
Hurst, who also worked as a reporter at the station at the time, had just moved in with Parker. A year later, after a similar shooting at a Roanoke rail car manufacturing company, Hurst reportedly decided something had to change. In February, he announced he was running for office on a gun control platform.
He quickly found support in the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and the Virginia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. They donated $50,000 to his campaign and volunteers were dedicated to campaigning for him. Lauren Soucy, one of those volunteers, cheered on the win in a statement provided to Bustle:
Moms Demand Action volunteers worked overtime to elect Chris Hurst, who has deep roots in the community and knows all too well the pain of having a loved one killed by gun violence. Virginians are proving today that we are willing to stand up for gun safety and reject the NRA even in its backyard.
The National Rifle Association has its headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia. Hurst didn't pay the group much mind as he developed his campaign website. One section, posted under health care, focuses on gun control, one of the key issues he hopes to address:
We must change the way we address the thousands of Virginians who die each year by bullets from guns. I think we do that by realizing this is a public health crisis because more people in the commonwealth die from gun violence than in car crashes ... As someone who has been personally touched by this issue, I will take the same objective, pragmatic approach to investigating solutions as I had when I worked as a journalist.
His win, with about 53 percent of the vote, is yet another sign that Virginia wants to move forward on gun control. The Democratic governor-elect, Ralph Northam, was also elected on a pro-gun control platform.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) was one of the early groups to support him and was quick show his win as a referendum on gun politics in the increasingly blue state. CSGV Executive Director Josh Horwitz said Northam's commitment to stronger gun laws was the "right decision morally and politically." Horwitz added, "This election represents another defeat for the NRA in their home state. Even after spending a tremendous amount of money in Virginia the NRA’s message still fell flat with voters. The political energy is now with the overwhelming majority of Virginia citizens who support policies to keep guns out the hands of dangerous people."
Northam will find a willing partner in Hurst, whose platform focused on common-sense legislation. "My focus remains on those most susceptible to homicide and suicide from firearms," Hurst's campaign website reads. "I will work to protect men and women of color in cities from dying on the streets, to help women find safety after taking the courageous move to leave a dangerous relationship and to encourage parents to make sure children don’t have unsupervised access to a gun."
He spoke with CNN after his win. "Every single idea that could possibly address and reduce the number of people dying from gun homicide, suicide and accidental fire deaths, I think, is finally on the table." With a Democratic majority and governor in office, that just may be true.