Candidate for Carrico’s Va. Senate seat withdraws from GOP nomination, decides to run as independent

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A candidate seeking the Virginia Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Bill Carrico has decided to withdraw his name for the Republican nomination.

Ken Heath says he will run as an independent instead. 

In a statement Wednesday, Heath complained about the nomination process, especially regarding the limited amount of time he had to file his petition due to the timing of Carrico announcing his retirement. 

“A senator publicly announces his retirement at the exact last moment anyone could even decide to run, and in his retirement, announcing his successor with his endorsement,” Heath said. “Then admitting he had told his chosen successor five days prior, and that he had no obligation to tell anyone else, including us, his constituents.”

With Heath’s withdrawal, fellow Republican Todd Pillion will get the nomination.

Here is Heath’s full statement: 

 “I believe in American democracy.  A democracy where every American citizen has a right to run for office, and a democracy where every American citizen has a right to vote for the candidate they choose.  Where we elect the person we believe will best represent the best in us, to be our voice in government, to be a citizen legislator and not a career politician.  It’s far too easy for even the best souls to get washed in power and privilege and start deciding he knows far better than us what’s best for us, to toss  away the basic tenets of our American democracy and coronate their successors, making it almost impossible for anyone to be a challenger to the power base they’ve accumulated over the years and years they’ve occupied their seats – seats that, by design, belong not to politicians, but to we the people.  You know my story, and the story leading us to this day.  A senator publicly announces his retirement at the exact last moment anyone could even decide to run, and in his retirement, announcing his successor with his endorsement.  Then admitting he had told his chosen successor five days prior, and that he had no obligation to tell anyone else, including us, his constituents.  And he’s right.  But I’m pretty sure you feel as I do – he may be right, but for the rest of us, it’s wrong.  It’s wrong that nobody else – unless you wanted to challenge an incumbent senator – would run against him.  It’s wrong that we don’t get to pick the best candidate we believe in because all but the one hand-selected were kept in the dark.  Except I got a call, and with two minutes to spare, made a handful of people very mad by getting my name in the hat to give you a choice.  

I’m a man of my word.  I’d promised my senator and my delegate that I wouldn’t attempt to challenge them as long as they wanted to serve.  And I didn’t.  I promised I wouldn’t attack or go negative or sling mud, and even as it’s been heaped on me, I’ve kept my word.  And I agreed that, no matter how the table was set for this process, with a Thursday night mass meeting in a location that’s not even central to the district, I would run my race playing by their rules.  

Now that there are Republican challengers in two House Of Delegate races in our district, those challengers are given benefit of a primary where voters get to go to their polling places to choose.  But in my race, the party officials here insist on the Thursday night mass meeting, which means folks outside the immediate area have to take off work, close their shops, arrange transportation, and tie up an entire afternoon and evening to have their voices heard. And that’s wrong.  Yes, it’s the way it’s been done, but let’s be honest – there’s never been a challenger, so in the past, it was pomp and circumstance.  A show.  A coronation.  

There was an appeal filed asking for this mass meeting to be moved, maybe to a central location or even to a Saturday so more could participate.  Maybe even a primary, like the other races, so every vote would count.  But those appeals have fallen on deaf ears.   

On this particular Thursday night, this gathering will not only decide the Republican nominee, but in the absence of a challenger, your next senator, unless the seat is challenged.  And, to me, that’s not the best way to give EVERY voter a choice, an opportunity to have a voice.  

I’ve been called a “keyboard warrior” by our senator.  He’s half right – I am a warrior.  Matter-of-fact, he’s called me lots of things through this tough past month.  But he’ll never be able to say I’m not a man of my word.  I’ve never spoken ill of him or his service, nor have I spoken ill of my opponent.  But, as I face the reality of asking my supporters to lose wages and close shops and give up precious time to show up at a mass meeting that’s all but set to defeat anyone challenging the plan, to sign a pledge to support a candidate that they most likely would never do otherwise, I realize I can no longer participate in that system.   I cannot make that pledge, nor can I ask my supporters to do so, knowing the outcome is all but decided.  

I’m not a politician.  I’m a guy that loves my hometown, my southwest Virginia.  I’ve spent my career in my hometown and in many other hometowns across Virginia working for a better tomorrow for every one of us, a tomorrow that faces our difficult challenges head on as a proven problem solver – defining the problem, determining the solution, and rolling up my sleeves to help anyone and everyone that asks.  That’s who I am.  That’s what I do.  And that’s what I want to do for you in Richmond as your senator.  Not as a party loyalist, not as a mouthpiece for special interests, not as a career politician, but as a fellow Virginian with drive, passion, heart, and desire to serve every one of you as best I can to build a better tomorrow for us all.   

I’m a Southwest Virginia native son.  I’ve worked here my entire career, from radio to now. And in addition to my full time job here in SWVA,  I own my own business that’s also right here in southwest Virginia.  Because I believe in us.  I believe in SWVA.  I believe I can grow SWVA because I believe in SWVA.  It would be impossible for me to showcase our region if I didn’t even believe enough in it to have my own business here.  

I’ve fought the fight.  I’ve done my best to play by the rules to give you a choice, and to win for you.  But I grew up in a place called Fairground Hill, in a time where “fair” meant giving everyone the same opportunities.  And over the last month, I honestly and candidly haven’t seen much fairness.  

Now, I’m realizing it’s not fair of me to ask my supporters to close their shops, give up their time, to make a pledge in a system where we don’t have a good shot at that opportunity.  

After much thought, consideration, discussion and prayer, I’ve decided to withdraw my name from consideration for republican nomination at the April 25 mass meeting, and, at the same time, announce my candidacy as an independent for your vote for your next senator in November.   

It’s been said Ronald Reagan wouldn’t be welcome in today’s Republican Party.  I can’t speak for that, but I can say with some authority that there are those in power that have shown me that I’m not welcome.  And that’s ok, because I’m not running to represent a party.  I’m running to represent you.  I want to be YOUR voice in Richmond, not part of a party machine, and especially not part of a process that fights as hard as it can to keep others from participating.  I believe in giving YOU a choice, in giving US a chance, in the basic American right to have someone represent citizens over anything and everything else.  

If you believe as I do in this most basic tenet of American democracy – the right to choose your representative over being handed one – I ask for your support, your prayers, and your vote for honest, independent representation as your senator this November 5.

We’re not done. We’re just getting started!  On a fair, honest track to Richmond!  Hold my Mountain Dew!”

Ken Heath 

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