From tragedy to victory in Virginia
By: Jessica Campbell
9 months ago
Two years ago, he lost his girlfriend to gun violence. Yesterday, he won a seat in Virginia's House of Delegates, defeating a candidate backed by the NRA.
In the summer of 2015, Chris Hurst and Alison Parker were just beginning their lives together. The two had met through work at WDBJ7, a CBS television station in Roanoke, Virginia, where Hurst was a news anchor and Parker a reporter. Though they had only been together a few months, they were planning their future together. They leased a condo and moved in together; Hurst gave Parker a promise ring, knowing that someday, when she was ready, he would marry her.
Then, she was gone.
On Aug. 26, 2015, Parker was reporting live, interviewing a local Chamber of Commerce executive, when a gunman shot her and her cameraman, Adam Ward, killing both. The story quickly gained national attention after the killer, a disgruntled former news station employee, posted video of the shooting on social media before turning the gun on himself.
Hurst's life was turned upside down, the one who reported on crime was now the crime victim. As a local news anchor, he was the face of the community's grief while grieving himself. He became a poster child of sorts for bereaved partners.
Having both worked and lived with Parker, memories of her were everywhere. Hurst would not forget her and he made sure no one else would either, incorporating her memory into newscasts and newsreels, finishing her unfinished stories. A profile in the Washington Post from November 2015, just months after the shooting, describes him prepping a hospice series, one Parker had started before her death.
“I’m Chris Hurst,” he says into the camera. “Tonight at six, we see the life of a hospice patient and learn why Alison Parker wanted to tell the hospice story.”
Though his news career was fulfilling, Hurst says on his campaign website, asking questions wasn't enough anymore. "I became focused on finding solutions." Hurst decided to leave journalism and run for office.
He campaigned for the Virginia House of Delegates as a Democrat and "a fierce advocate for families struggling for access to mental health care and equality in education for students with special needs." Other issues of importance to Hurst, adapting the workforce for the careers of the future, stemming child abuse and opioid addiction, and supporting first responders.
Though only one part of his platform, the issue of gun violence was ever present, thanks to Hurst's personal history as well as the recent mass shootings in Las Vegas and Texas. His opponent, Republican incumbent Joseph Yost, was backed by the NRA. Hurst, meanwhile, was supported by gun control groups, even though Hurst himself is a gun owner who is more moderate in his views on gun restrictions. Despite Hurst's moderate stance on gun control, his victory over Yost, in a state where voters in exit polls cited healthcare and gun control as their two top issues, has been hailed as a victory in the battle to curb gun violence.
For Hurst, however, his win is about more than guns: it's about being a positive force for change, helping to make the world a better place. And it's about carrying on after profound tragedy.
"In 2015, I was just beginning a new life with my late girlfriend, Alison Parker," reads the About Me section of Hurst's site. "Your continued prayers and support now give me the strength to move forward and be a courageous fighter for all Virginians."