A first-time political candidate and a man making his third try for elected office are seeking General Assembly seats representing Southside and Southwest Virginia.
Starla Kiser, a physician from Wise County, has secured the Democratic nomination to compete in the November election to represent Dickenson County and portions of Russell, Washington and Wise counties in the House of Delegates. The seat is open because the 4th House District’s current representative, Del. Todd Pillion, R-Washington, is seeking a state Senate seat.
Kiser, 34, is a native of Dickenson County, where she was raised on a farm. She attended East Tennessee University and then earned a medical degree and master’s degree in public administration from Harvard. She is board-certified in both internal medicine and pediatrics.
She completed her residency at Boston Children’s Hospital as well as Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. From there, she worked in Africa, India and other countries to improve health care delivery systems.
Kiser said she was always interested in the delivery of health care to people in underserved areas, so she moved back to Southwest Virginia. She runs her own clinic in Clintwood.
“When I moved back, I was thinking we don’t need to depend on politicians, we just need people to move back to our area and attract businesses and people,” Kiser said. “I’ve realized how important it is to have good leadership. I believe in the area, and I want it to thrive. Our biggest asset is our people and we need to provide opportunities for people to live here.”
Kiser will face off against the Republican who wins in the June 11 state-run primary. The two Republican candidates are David Eaton, a member of the Russell County Board of Supervisors, and William Wampler III, whose father was a state senator and whose grandfather served in the U.S. House of Representatives.
All 140 seats in the General Assembly are up for reelection Nov. 5, and Democrats are fighting to take over the majority in both chambers. The 4th House District votes solidly Republican. Kiser acknowledged it will be uphill battle, but she’s eager to accept the challenge.
“I didn’t move here with an intent to run for office,” she said. “I want to be a new and different voice. I’m not an ideologue, I’m just a pragmatic thinker.”
Pillion is running for the 40th Senate District seat, which includes the city of Bristol and Lee, Scott, Grayson and Washington counties, as well as parts of Smyth, Wise and Wythe counties. Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Grayson, is not seeking reelection. Pillion is the Republican nominee, and as of now only faces independent Ken Heath, the town of Marion’s director of community and economic development.
In another General Assembly race, on Saturday the Democrats will nominate a candidate for the 20th Senate District, which covers Henry and Patrick counties, Galax and Martinsville as well as parts of Danville and Carroll, Franklin, Halifax and Pittsylvania counties. Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin, represents the district and will appear on the ballot in November.
Democrats are using a caucus as the nomination method, which is happening at noon at New College Institute. Sherman Witcher, of Franklin County, is the only person who is seeking the party nomination.
This is Witcher’s third time seeking a spot in the General Assembly. He ran for state Senate in 2007 as an independent against Republican Robert Hurt, receiving 24% of the vote. Again as an independent candidate, he tried to unseat Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Franklin, in 2009, but lost with 21% of the vote.