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Virginia State Senator Dies from COVID-19

Sen. Ben Chafin speaking in a committee meeting
Sen. Ben Chafin speaking in a committee meeting during the 2020 General Assembly session. (Craig Carper / VPM News).

Virginia state Senator Ben Chafin died on New Year’s Day, after contracting the coronavirus. 

The 60-year-old Republican lawmaker, from Russell County, represented southwest Virginia since 2013. He was originally elected to the House of Delegates, and then moved to the Senate in 2014 after winning a special election. 

Chafin is the first Virginia lawmaker to die from COVID-19. Lawmakers from around the Commonwealth mourned his death late Friday.

Gov. Ralph Northam, who worked with Chafin in the state Senate while serving as Lt. Governor, said he “loved the outdoors, and he loved serving people even more.” 

“I knew Ben as a lawmaker, an attorney, a banker, and a farmer raising beef cattle in Moccasin Valley, working the land just as generations of his family had done before him.... He pushed hard to bring jobs and investment to his district, and I will always be grateful for his courageous vote to expand health care for people who need it,” Northam said in a statement.

Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City) described his caucus colleague as “deeply and wholeheartedly committed to the Commonwealth.”

“To us, Ben was more than a dedicated colleague who exemplified the best in public service.  He was a treasured friend, unrelentingly cheerful with an infectious smile and gregarious manner,” Norment said in a statement.

According to Virginia Capitol Police, flags will be flown at half staff at the state Capitol until sunset after Chafin is buried.

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