District 9 Decision: Republicans set Tuesday nomination vote

Published 7:01 pm Sunday, December 17, 2023

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Less than four days after State Sen. Frank Ruff announced he’s retiring in January, District 9 Republicans will choose their candidate to replace him. The mass meeting to choose a party nominee will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 19 in Drakes Branch. 

Specifically, it’ll be held at the Drakes Branch Fire Department, located at 4801 Drakes Main St., Drakes Branch. According to Will Pace, the 9th District Republican Committee Chairman, registration is at 5 p.m. and the meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. Now to be clear, this is a Republican mass meeting. Only members of the Republican Party are allowed to attend and choose their nominee. This is not like an open primary. Also, this is for Republicans who live in District 9. That covers Charlotte County, along with Halifax, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway and Pittsylvania counties, part of Prince Edward County and the city of Danville. If you are a Republican who lives in the district, you are qualified to show up at the mass meeting and vote for the candidate of your choice. 

“All participants must be in line by 6:30 p.m. in order to participate and all participants must bring photo identification,” Pace said in a statement. “Please note that this mass meeting may last for up to several hours, should the mass meeting rules require the winning candidate to receive a majority vote. If so, multiple rounds of voting may occur.” 

Why is this happening? 

This election is to replace Virginia State Sen. Frank Ruff, who had been elected in November to the District 9 seat. On Friday, Dec. 15, Ruff announced that he’ll be retiring on Jan. 9, due to his health. 

“Having recently been diagnosed with cancer, and entering into an aggressive and ongoing treatment regimen, I have concluded I may not be able to devote 100% of my focus to doing the work needed in the General Assembly,” Ruff said. “Consequently, I believe now is the right time to retire.” 

The newly elected senator for District 9 said he announced his resignation plan now so that a successor can be elected before the General Assembly convenes on Jan. 10, 2024. 

District 9 Republicans in the race 

We have several candidates running on both sides. We’ll focus on the Democrats in another article. For Republicans, there are currently six candidates to choose from on Tuesday. 

The first is current Danville City Council member Lee Vogler. Elected at age 24 to the council in 2012, Vogler also serves on a statewide level, having been appointed in 2022 by Gov. Youngkin to the Virginia Small Business Commission. The Danville native also played a role in bringing the $675 million Caesar’s casino resort to his city and helped bring in other businesses, which earned Danville its current “Comeback City” nickname.

Vogler has picked up 15 endorsements over the last two days, including Crewe Mayor Phil Miskovic, Virginia Del. Wren Williams, Disruptor Capital CEO and former Republican candidate for governor Pete Snyder, among others. 

The second Republican declaring her candidacy for the seat is current Clarksville Town Council member Tammy Mulchi. The Mecklenburg County native, who served for nearly 14 years as legislative aide to Sen. Ruff, is also a realtor in Clarksville and has a connection to this region through her daughter, Brittany Barnes, a fourth grade teacher in Blackstone. She’s been endorsed by her former boss, as Ruff said Mulchi “understands the issues facing our communities”. 

The third candidate is Andy Ferguson, a small business owner and pastor from Halifax County. Ferguson says he’s planted churches in both South Carolina and Virginia, while also working as a contractor to help supplement his income.  

The fourth candidate, Kade Gravitt, is somewhat familiar to residents in this area. Gravitt is the current legislative aide to District 50 State House Del. Tommy Wright. The Clarksville native studied criminal justice at Radford University. 

The fifth candidate is Dale Sturdifen, whose name may also be familiar to some locals, as he currently serves as the field director for Congressman Bob Good. A former officer with the Virginia State Police and former school board member in Mecklenburg County, he has also been appointed to the Virginia State Board of Education by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. 

And finally, we have Del. James Edmunds, who had originally announced his retirement from the Assembly this year, choosing not to run in November’s election. Under redistricting, his native Halifax County had been blended into a district held by fellow Republican Danny Marshall. After Ruff’s announcement, Edmunds reversed course, filing as a candidate for the State Senate seat. 

“After prayerful thought, I have decided that God may not be done with my public service quite yet,” Edmunds said.