By Emma Coleman
Delegate Ronnie Campbell won the 24th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates again tonight in the general election, according to the Associated Press.
With 100% of precincts counted, Campbell had 15,648 votes or 66.03%. Democratic candidate Christian Worth had 7,735 votes or 32.64%, and Independent candidate B. Eli Fishpaw had 292 or 1.23%.
Campbell, 65, is a Republican and a long-time Rockbridge County resident. Before being elected as delegate in a special election last year, he had served on the Rockbridge County School Board and the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors. He is also a retired Virginia State Police trooper.
Campbell won the special election last December in a race against Worth, 50, to fill the seat left vacant by Ben Cline, who was elected to the U.S. Congress. Cline, a Republican, had occupied the 24th District seat since 2002.
The 24th District includes Rockbridge and Bath counties and parts of Amherst and Augusta counties.
Campbell won about two-thirds of the vote in Bath County and more than 70% in the portions of Amherst and Augusta counties included in the district. He carried Rockbridge County with 60% of the vote and Buena Vista with 63%. Worth carried Lexington with 70% of the vote.
All 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up for re-election this year. The Republican Party retained control of the House in the 2017 election but by a small margin. There are 51 Republicans in the House and 48 Democrats. One seat, representing District 80, is vacant, according to Ballotpedia.
In the special election in 2018, Campbell won with 59.2% of the vote. He had raised about $96,000 in campaign donations, and Worth had raised about $48,000.
This year, the tables were turned. Campbell raised about $84,500, and Worth raised about $150,700, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
Worth practiced family law in Kentucky before moving to Lexington, where she had attended Washington and Lee University as an undergraduate student.
She considered her run “competitive,” and she credited hardworking volunteers and Rural GroundGame with her campaign fundraising success. GroundGame, a grassroots coalition of Democratic candidates from rural districts in Virginia and West Virginia, aims to recover long-time-Republican districts that were once held by Democrats.
But Campbell said campaign donations don’t win elections.
“There’s more to winning an election than having lots of money. You can get a little bit of money and spend it right and do just as good,” he said in an interview with the Rockbridge Report last month. “I have a reputation in this area, and I can run on that.”
Campbell said voter fatigue led to the drop in campaign donations.
“A lot of my money last year came locally, and when you go back to the people in less than 10 months and start asking for money again, they’re thinking, ‘I just gave you money,’” he said. “I think that has hampered me some.”
The incumbent also said his job as delegate keeps him busy. “In addition to running for re-election, I’m still working for the people in the county, and that is the big difference this time,” he said.
Fishpaw, 67, the Independent candidate, raised $575 in campaign donations. The Rockbridge County resident and “semi-retired” architect ran a climate crisis education campaign.
Campbell said his interactions with Worth and Fishpaw on the campaign trail were always civil.
“We treat each other with respect and we’re very sociable,” he said. “You’ve got to give them credit for running.”
Campbell said his experiences with the state police and his time on local boards guide his interests and concerns when it comes to local issues and policies.
“The No. 1 issue to me has always been the same thing throughout my entire life,” he said, “and that is representing the citizens in the 24th District and trying to make new things to improve their lives.”
The delegate has plans to improve transportation in the district. He said he is working with the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Department of Motor Vehicles to loosen permit load restrictions in Lexington.
Campbell also hopes to improve the railroad crossing in Buena Vista to allow trucks and oversized loads to travel through town. Such a change would benefit local companies like Munters Corporation, he said.
“That will allow them to add additional employees,” he said. “They have added 40 since I started doing this, trying to get the crossing updated.”
Campbell said he is also interested in adding vocational training to public schools.
“We’ve had one meeting,” he said. “Hopefully in follow-up meetings we’ll be able to find out if we can implement this and how we will do that.”