ABINGDON, Va. — Southwest Virginia voters gave Todd Pillion a belated birthday gift Tuesday, as the Abingdon pediatric dentist won the 40th District state Senate seat by a wide margin.
Pillion, who turned 46 last Friday, received more than 76% of the unofficial votes cast. He finished with 40,172 votes to defeat independent challenger Ken Heath of Marion. Heath, who originally planned to run as a Republican but withdrew and ran as an independent, received 12,265 votes, or 23.3%.
All votes must be canvassed by each county or city electoral board before being deemed official.
Pillion will take office in January. He succeeds two-term state Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Galax, who is retiring.
The vote represents a promotion for Pillion, who represented about 80,000 people during his two terms as a state delegate from the 4th House District to state senator representing more than 190,000. The 40th District includes the city of Bristol, the counties of Grayson, Lee, Scott and Wise and portions of Smyth, Washington and Wythe counties.
“Eight months ago, we started a campaign listening to people in the 40th District about what was important to them. We spent a lot of hours and a lot of miles working that district and sharing our vision for Southwest Virginia,” Pillion said Tuesday night. “Thanks to the voters; I look forward to taking what they told me to Richmond and working for them as their next state senator.”
Pillion said he could not have completed the campaign without the support of his wife and four children.
“This victory is not about me. It’s about our families, our communities and our future,” Pillion said. “I’m honored and humbled by the trust that everyone has placed in me. I thank everyone who voted, volunteered and worked in my behalf.”
Locally, Pillion won easily in Bristol, sweeping all four city precincts. Pillion received 1,875 unofficial votes or 73.4%, compared to Heath's 655 votes, or 25.6%, according to the city registrar's office.
Pillion received more than 80% of votes cast in Lee, Scott and Wise counties and 70% in every county except Smyth — Heath’s home county. Pillion won Smyth with 55% compared to 44% for Heath, who captured the majority of absentee votes and won three precincts.
Pillion ran on his record of leading the state’s legislative efforts to curb the opioid crisis and developing programs to aid those affected by it.
His campaign also rang a partisan GOP bell, calling this the most “important election of our lifetime,” given control of the state Senate hung in the balance. Democrats gained control of both the Senate and House Tuesday, but Pillion said he looks forward to working with both parties.
“It will be [different], but I’ve done it before, and I can do it again,” Pillion said. “I look forward to it. I think some of the issues that other communities in Virginia have are the same issues we have here in Southwest Virginia. Underfunded schools, poverty, economic development issues and the opioid addiction crisis are the same issues in some of our inner cities and some of our rural populations throughout the commonwealth. I look forward to working with whoever I need to in Richmond.”
In the 38th District, incumbent Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Lebanon, retained that seat with 30,298 unofficial votes, or 63.6% of votes cast, compared to 16,815, or 35.3% for independent challenger George W. McCall III.
“It has been the greatest honor to represent Southwest Virginia in the state Senate,” Chafin said in a written statement. “I am humbled and honored to continue serving the citizens of the 38th District. I thank God, my family, friends, and many supporters for the opportunity to return to Richmond to fight for you and represent our Southwest Virginia values. I am passionate and focused on continuing to deliver results for our region.”
Chafin cited some of his priorities as he looks to return to Richmond.
“There is much we have accomplished, but there is much more needed to be done to increase economic development, grow broadband and cell service, and increase funding for our public schools,” Chafin said in the statement.
The 38th District includes Bland, Buchanan, Dickenson, Pulaski, Russell and Tazewell counties, parts of Montgomery, Smyth and Wise counties, plus the cities of Norton and Radford.