State Sen. Frank Ruff announces retirement. Special election set.

Published 3:50 pm Friday, December 15, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

It’s time to step down. That was the decision Virginia State Sen. Frank Ruff announced on Friday, Dec. 15, saying he plans to retire on Jan. 9. 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. The reason he’s stepping down, Ruff said, is because of 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.” 

Ruff had been elected to his first term as District 9’s state senator back in November. Previously, he served as senator for District 15, a position he had been in since November 2000, but thanks to the redrawn electoral maps, he was moved out of District 15 and now resides in the District 9 area. Prior to serving in the State Senate, he represented the 61st District in the Virginia House of Delegates and the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors before that. He also helped found the GO Virginia economic group, served as Chairman of the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission and as Chairman of the Center for Rural Virginia. 

It has been the honor of my life to represent and serve the people of our communities,” Ruff added. “I am, and will forever be, deeply grateful to the people who have entrusted me to represent them in Richmond. As our region has always been and will continue to be my home, I look forward to thanking them in person over the years to come.” 

But now, Ruff said, as he fights cancer, it’s time to focus on family. 

“I am looking forward to spending a lot more time with (my wife) Jessie, my four children and four grandchildren,” Ruff said. 

Who will replace Frank Ruff? Election set  

The statement by Frank Ruff set off a chain reaction Friday, with multiple candidates from several parties declaring their candidacy. Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin set a special election to take place in the 9th District for Jan. 9, 2024. To be clear, District 9 includes Charlotte County, Halifax, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway and Pittsylvania counties, along with part of Prince Edward County and the city of Danville. 

The first person to announce her candidacy was Ruff’s opponent in the 2022 race, Democrat Trudy Berry. A former legal services specialist with the U.S. Air Force, the Victoria resident ran in 2019 for the 61st District seat in the Virginia House, losing to Del. Tommy Wright. She then ran last fall for the District 9 seat, but had to go as a write-in candidate, after a clerical mistake by Democratic officials caused her email to be mistyped on the campaign paperwork, removing her name from the ballot. 

“I wish Sen. Ruff the best as he focuses on his health,” Berry said in a statement. “And yes, I will compete for his seat when a special election is called. We must keep moving forward for a better economy and equal opportunities for all.” 

Farmville resident and Berry’s fellow Democrat Rev. Josh Blakely said people had reached out to ask him to run for the seat, but he’s unable to do so, as he doesn’t live in the district. Blakely had run against Del. Tommy Wright for the District 50 seat in the House of Delegates last fall. 

Republican candidates announce for District 9 

Meanwhile on the Republican side, two candidates have already emerged. 

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. 

“I have always been driven by a steadfast commitment to upholding our conservative way of life, championing individual liberty and promoting limited government,” Vogler said in a statement. “We need leaders in Richmond with the experience of creating good-paying jobs for our community and defending our Southside way of life. I am proud of my record and I look forward to getting to Richmond and continuing to serve our community and our Commonwealth.” 

Vogler also offered his prayers for Sen. Ruff and praised his years of service. 

“We extend our heartfelt gratitude for his unwavering commitment to our district and his tireless efforts in advancing our shared conservative values,” Vogler said. 

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. 

Mulchi also earned the endorsement of her former boss, with Ruff saying she was his pick to replace him. 

“Tammy Mulchi served as my legislative aide for close to 14 years. The daughter of a tobacco farmer and a member of the Town Council in Clarkville, she understands the issues facing our communities and will not need any on-the-job training in Richmond,” Ruff said. “I am proud to give Tammy my full endorsement.” 

Mulchi thanked her former boss for his endorsement, while recognizing his years of service. 

“Frank Ruff has served with the upmost integrity and has fought so hard for our conservative values here in Southern Virginia,” Mulchi’s campaign said in a statement. “We are honored to have Frank’s endorsement and we wish him the best in his retirement.” 

Candidates have until Wednesday, Dec. 20 to file in this race.