Republican Travis Hackworth won the 38th Senate District seat in a special election held Tuesday. Hackworth will fill a seat left vacant when Senator Ben Chafin (R-Russell) died of COVID-19 early in 2021.
“We were hoping for a 70-30 victory and to hit 75 percent, it’s just amazing. It just shows how the people in the 38th District are still conservative Republicans that want to elect a senator like Senator Chafin, who will go up there and fight Richmond and just be conservative,” Hackworth told The Virginia Star.
Before the election, the Virginia Public Access Project said Senate District 38 is the second-most conservative district in Virginia. That was reinforced by Hackworth’s 76.28 percent win, according to preliminary results that were updated after Hackworth spoke to The Star.
Democrats still maintain control of the Senate with 21 seats, but filling Chafin’s vacant seat with Hackworth gives Republicans 19 seats — enough for Republicans to hope to defeat some legislation with help from two moderate Democrats. It also makes tie votes possible with support from just one Democrat. That adds some importance to the 2021 race to be Senate tie-breaker — the lieutenant governor.
Hackworth is a developer who owns over a dozen businesses, and campaigned on ideas like Christian faith, gun rights, freedom of speech, support for Trump, and support for pro-life issues. He’s also listed priorities for Southwest Virginia like protecting coal, expanding green energy jobs in the coal fields, adding incentives for local businesses, improving school funding, and improving rural broadband access.
Hackworth’s swearing-in will be scheduled for early April. He will resign as Tazewell County Supervisor on that day, and the Board of Supervisors will select someone to fill his place until they can hold a special election. He said he will establish district offices in Norton, Pulaski, and Richlands.
His first act once in office will be to direct his staff to create economic initiatives to benefit SD 38 businesses.
“I want an economic arm of my senate office that is going to work with boards of supervisors, the [industrial development authorities], and local business people, and we are going to try to strengthen our local businesses, our small business,” he said. “I would love to see small business in the 38th District to be able to add just one job. That will create thousands of jobs in the 38th District.”
He said there’s often more attention paid to attracting outside businesses than to helping existing businesses. “So, we want to start by helping to strengthen and expand our local businesses,” he said.
In a call Tuesday evening with reporters, Virginia Democratic Chairwoman Susan Swecker said that Hackworth’s opponent Laurie Buchwald matched President Biden’s 2020 performance in the district. Swecker described Buchwald’s results as a sign of a gradual shift in the district. She said candidates like Buchwald who are willing to run in solid-Republican districts are the key to making gradual gains in those districts.
“I just hope that the winner of the election tonight knows that there are more people out there who desire the improvement in their life in terms of education and access to healthcare and broadband, and the economy,” Buchwald said on the call. “One of the number one reasons I jumped into this race was to inspire, hopefully, people to run. Our values matter. What we have to say matters.”
Hackworth said the election results show that the 38th District still wants conservatives in office. He said, “Today I crisscrossed the 38th District and every precinct had people that said, ‘Thank you for stepping up. Thank you for doing this.'”
He said, “I think this is going to be a springboard for the fall election. I think that Virginians are upset about the legislation that’s been coming out of Richmond for the past few years.”
“Today, the people of Southwest elected a strong, effective voice to represent them in the Senate of Virginia,” Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment, Jr. (R-James City) said in a press release. “Travis ran a great campaign and our entire caucus is looking forward to having him join our ranks for the upcoming Reconvened Session on April 7.”
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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Email tips to [email protected].
“Travis Hackworth” by Travis Hackworth. Background Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Anderskev. CC BY 3.0.