MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. — Former news anchor Chris Hurst unseated three-time, Republican incumbent Del. Joseph Yost to take a seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates on Tuesday.
Hurst, a Democrat, was the evening anchor for WDBJ7 in Roanoke, before leaving in February to pursue political office.
In August 2015, Hurst’s girlfriend Alison Parker and co-worker Adam Ward were killed when a disgruntled former employee shot them on live television.
Hurst was thrust into the national spotlight as the face of the station after the tragedy.
The former anchor has since become an advocate for mental health care and helping the family members who are dealing with their relatives’ illnesses. He also focused on education and health care during his campaign.
Hurst beat the odds in his first political run to take the 12th District, which includes Montgomery, Radford, Giles and Pulaski counties.
“I told people since and I’ll tell you and your viewers now that Alison and Adam Ward’s death connected me to humanity more than anything else,” Hurst said.
Hurst said the deaths had given him “a shared experience and a common bond with so many people who have gone through tragedy, who have gone through loss, and now, unfortunately, as we have seen in recent events, have also gone through the tragedy and horror of losing a loved one through gun violence. But it connected me to my community, it galvanized me to my community.”
After the killings, Hurst said he found it too “emotionally difficult” to remain at WDBJ.
“It made me want to stay in no place other than in southwest Virginia and Appalachia, but I couldn’t stay at the station anymore,” he said.
“So what could I do that would be a natural progression, to be able to give back to a community, to a people that gave me so much strength, love, prayer and support when I needed it? And this seemed like the right thing to do.”
Hurst made it clear he is not a single-issue candidate, although his campaign platform advocated a reduction in gun violence.
“We really have not been focused on gun violence in this race at all,” he said, noting he is a gun owner. “This race has been more about education, more about expanding Medicaid. … This, I think, presents a fantastic opportunity for us to address issues that impact people’s lives on a daily basis.”
When he announced his decision to leave television news and pursue a career in politics in a February op-ed for The Daily Beast, he wrote, “I’m leaving my career at the station where (Parker) worked to fight for the causes she and I value the most.”