Despite losing their majority in the House of Delegates, Republicans cruised to victory in three Lynchburg-area House districts Tuesday, returning two longtime delegates and sending a first-time candidate to Richmond.
Del. Kathy Byron, Del. C. Matt Fariss and longtime Republican activist Wendell Walker all won their races by beating back three Democrats by wide margins. Combined, their districts stretch across a wide swath of central Virginia, from just outside Charlottesville to the western edges of Bedford County.
Byron easily defeated Democrat Jennifer Woofter in the 22nd House District by a nearly 40-point margin to win a 12th term.
“I’m just so thankful,” Byron said. “We ran a very clean, positive campaign based on issues important to people in the 22nd District and they certainly indicated by their vote that they wanted me to go back and keep working for them.”
Byron campaigned on improving access to broadband and health care and expanding workforce development programs. When Byron returns to Richmond next year, she will find herself in the minority party for the first time in her 21-year tenure as a delegate.
Woofter, the owner of a sustainability consulting firm in Lynchburg and a former U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs staffer, emphasized improving funding for education, infrastructure and health care in her first race for office.
“I am so proud of our campaign,” Woofter said, “particularly in the city of Lynchburg. I think it’s that kind of ground game that is ultimately going to help us win a future election.”
In the neighboring 23rd House District, Walker defeated Democrat David Zilles, an engineer at BWXT, by a nearly 28-point margin.
“I’m very humbled to have earned the respect and trust of the people here in the 23rd District,” Walker, of Lynchburg, said.
Walker campaigned as an advocate for the Second Amendment and religious liberty while strongly opposing abortion and new taxes. He will succeed Del. Scott Garrett, R-Lynchburg, who served five terms in the House before declining to run for reelection.
Zilles, of Lynchburg, staked much of his campaign on gun reform and was backed by the local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. He did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday evening.
When asked how he plans to approach his role as a legislator given the new makeup of the House, Walker said he expects to find some common ground with his Democratic colleagues across the aisle.
“There’s going to be some giving and some taking; I mean that’s politics,” Walker said. “I look forward to working with other delegates as we go forward.”
Fariss won a fifth term in the 59th House District by dispatching Democrat Tim Hickey, of Greene County, by a 26-point margin.
“It’s pleasing to see that the people of the 59th District believe that I’m doing a good job representing them,” said Fariss, who campaigned on improving infrastructure for state commerce and agricultural interests.
Hickey ran on expanding broadband internet access and improving economic opportunities.
Richard Chumney covers breaking news and public safety for The News & Advance. Rreach him at (434) 385-5547.