Republican Sen. Bill Carrico announced Tuesday he will not run for re-election to the state Senate this year and endorsed Del. Todd Pillion to replace him.
Carrico, 57, will end his career in the General Assembly after 18 years — a decade in the House of Delegates and eight in the Senate. The retired state trooper from Southwest Virginia earned a reputation for advocating for law enforcement and his rural region as well as championing Christian values.
“Serving in the General Assembly, being from Southwest Virginia, is a real sacrifice,” Carrico said Tuesday. “I feel like I’ve done my very best. I haven’t been perfect by any means, but I tried to help everybody that asked for my help, regardless of their party or if they voted for me or not. That’s what I want to leave on, that fact I’m just one of the people, and I served them honorably, and when I see them, I don’t have to bow my head in any way. I’ve been thankful to serve them.”
Carrico was born in Marion. He was a state trooper for more than 15 years before being injured in a vehicle crash and retiring with a disability.
In 2001, he ousted three-term Democratic Del. John Tate in a district that was redrawn to make it more favorable to Republicans. He took on Democratic Rep. Rick Boucher in the 9th Congressional District race in 2006 but lost. He replaced retiring state Sen. William Wampler Jr. in the state Senate in 2012.
Carrico represents the city of Bristol and Lee, Scott, Grayson and Washington counties, as well as parts of Smyth, Wise and Wythe counties.
Carrico felt he’d served long enough in the General Assembly, and he wanted to spend more time with his family.
“I don’t think our founders intended for this to be long term, so while they didn’t set term limits, they did expect it to be a sacrifice and not something to make careers out of,” Carrico said.
Carrico announced his retirement 30 minutes after the deadline passed to file for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat.
Del. Todd Pillion, R-Washington, announced his candidacy for the Senate seat shortly after Carrico announced his retirement. Pillion was elected to the House of Delegates in 2014 to represent Dickenson County and portions of Russell, Washington and Wise counties.
“As candidate for State Senate, I will continue to do all that I can to make Southwest Virginia a better place to live, work and raise a family,” Pillion said. “That has been my guiding principle in the House of Delegates working to foster economic development, supporting our families, and confronting one of the greatest public health, economic, and workforce challenges of our time — the opioid epidemic.”
Carrico endorsed him.
“As I prepare to move on, I can’t think of a better person to run for this seat than Todd Pillion and I look forward to supporting him wholeheartedly,” Carrico said.
Pillion filed, as well as Ken Heath, the town of Marion’s director of community and economic development, said Paul Grinstead, the chairman of the legislative district committee that will oversee the process for choosing a Republican nominee.
Republicans will gather April 25 in Scott County for a mass meeting to choose between Pillion and Heath. Any Republican voter living in the Senate district can participate in the mass meeting at the Scott County Career and Technical Center at 150 Broadwater Ave. in Gate City.
No candidates have declared their intent to seek the Republican nomination for Pillion’s House seat as of Tuesday night. Republican candidates have until March 25 to file paperwork with the legislative district committee. An open primary will be used to choose the Republican nominee.
Carrico’s Senate seat is reliably Republican. All 140 seats in the General Assembly are up for re-election in November, and Democrats are pushing to take the majority in both chambers.
Only one other senator, Sen. Dick Black, R-Loudoun, has announced he would not seek re-election.
Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment thanked Carrico for his service and dedication to the people of Southwest Virginia.
“A genial and gracious man with a physically imposing stature befitting his career as a state trooper, Senator Carrico amassed a record of accomplishment at the Capitol,” Norment said in a statement. “He sponsored successful legislation to toughen laws against criminal activity, protect and provide for our police and public safety officials, improve the safety of our highways, and strengthen the economy of Southwest Virginia.”
Carrico has supported efforts to increase pay for state troopers. A bill he sponsored that would set the mandatory minimum sentence for anyone convicted of capital murder of a police officer to be life in prison is currently on Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk.
He joined lawmakers focused on coming up with ways to improve the safety of Interstate 81. Carrico was part of the push for legislation that could bring casino gaming to Virginia, including Bristol.
He sponsored legislation aimed at restoring Christian values.
He introduced a constitutional amendment that would allow prayer and other religious expressions on all public property. The Senate rejected the amendment.
He brought to the General Assembly legislation designed to protect the rights of public school students to voluntarily pray and participate in religious activities on school ground. Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed the bill.
He had a bill that would have prohibited state officials from instructing state police volunteer chaplains to avoid referring to religion — including the name of Jesus Christ — during prayers at department-sanctioned events. It failed in the Senate.
This past session, he sponsored a bill to allow school boards in the state to offer a high school elective course on the Old Testament and the New Testament. The bill didn’t pass out of a House panel.
“I maybe didn’t get those bills passed, but it did send a message, and the people in the General Assembly really started recognizing that this was important,” Carrico said. “That to me has been my most memorable and effective part of being in the General Assembly: standing for what I believe and what people of this region believe and not backing down.”
Carrico said he has a “new venture” he’s planning to undertake in the near future, but was mum on details.
“It’s bittersweet to be leaving,” he said. “I’ll certainly miss parts of it. It was a tough decision, but one I felt was the right one to make.”