Heath steps aside as 40th District candidate

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Two were seeking GOP nomination to run for Senate seat being vacated by Bill Carrico of Grayson County

By Brian Funk, Editor

MARION — Two candidates seeking the Republican Party’s nomination to succeed Bill Sen. Carrico were set to meet later this week to decide which would run in the Virginia Senate 40th District race in November.

However, one has dropped out of the race, making the April 25 Republican mass meeting a foregone conclusion.

Last week, Ken Heath of Marion withdrew his name from the 40th District race and handed the GOP nomination to Del. Todd Pillion. Heath still plans to run in November, but as an independent.

The winner of November’s race will replace the retiring Carrico, a Republican. The district includes Grayson County, where Carrico lives.

All seats in the General Assembly seat are up for election on Nov. 5.

Pillion (R-Abingdon), 46, has been endorsed by Carrico, Del. Israel O’Quinn (who represents Grayson County and Galax) and other Republicans in both houses.

“From his time in the National Guard to the House of Delegates, Todd has always put service above self. As I prepare to move on, I can’t think of a better person to run for this seat,” Carrico said in a statement earlier this year.

If elected, Pillion would move to the state Senate from the Virginia House of Delegates, where he has served the 4th District since 2015.

“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 in the statement announcing his candidacy. “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.”

According to an article in the Bristol Herald-Courier, Pillion is a 1996 graduate of Lincoln Memorial University and a 2001 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry. He earned his pediatric specialty degree in 2006 from State University of New York at Buffalo. He is married with four children.

Heath, 56, who has criticized state Republicans’ process of choosing a nominee, thanked supporters in a statement and vowed to continue his campaign in a different way.

“To offer a true choice for all the voters, I have no option other than to remove my name from consideration... and run on my own as an independent,” he said in the statement. “This will put the power in the hands of all the voters, not just a select few, and I truly believe this will give Southwest Virginia our best opportunity to choose the best representative to be their voice in Richmond.”

According to an article in the Herald-Courier, he is a 2018 graduate of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership’s political leaders program, a 1986 graduate of East Tennessee State University and a 1984 graduate of Wytheville Community College. He is married.

Heath is director of community and economic development for Marion; previously worked at WMEV radio; serves as public information officer for Smyth County Emergency Management and for the Marion police, fire and EMS; and served nearly a decade as a volunteer firefighter, the Herald-Courier reported. He was elected to two terms on Marion Town Council and served as the first director of Marion Downtown Revitalization Association, according to the newspaper.