District 9 nominees chosen in packed primaries

Published 8:00 am Friday, December 29, 2023

There was confusion, a lot of last minute scrambling and, on the Republican side, three rounds of voting. But at the end of the night on Tuesday, Dec. 19, candidates were chosen for the special District 9 State Senate election coming next month. 

Republican Tammy Mulchi and Democrat Tina Wyatt Younger will compete on Jan. 9 to fill the seat currently held by Sen. Frank Ruff.

Ruff will be retiring that same day due to his battle with cancer. Both women competed in packed elections to get to this position, with a crowd of challengers competing. On the Republican side, it all happened at one location. District 9 voters were asked to drive out to the Drakes Branch Fire Department in Charlotte County for a mass meeting. Democrats, meanwhile, held a firehouse primary, choosing seven locations spread out across the district where people could go and cast a ballot. 

There were a couple road bumps along the way, however. Democrats changed the location of the Danville/ Pittsylvania County site less than 24 hours before the vote, which had some people showing up at Frank’s Pizza in Chatham, looking to cast a ballot. Instead, they were directed to Greater Triumph Missionary Baptist Church, in the same town, but just a bit further down the road. Others reached out to The Herald and its sister papers in Charlotte and Lunenburg, asking for directions to the Drakes Branch Municipal Building, the Hampden-Sydney Fire Department and Kenbridge Town Hall, respectively. 

Republicans, meanwhile, had what was termed “a good problem,” as so many people came out the Fire Department building couldn’t hold them all. The group had to put voting on hold for a minute while they set up tables outside, along with space heaters. 

MULCHI STAYS IN FIRST 

Republicans had a couple days to get to know their candidates, with most declaring in the first 24 hours after Ruff announced plans to retire last Friday. The party brought a six person race to Drakes Branch, featuring everyone from current state delegates to city council members. And each brought their supporters, with 833 registering to vote. 

The field included current Danville City Council member Lee Vogler, Halifax County business owner and pastor Andy Ferguson, current Clarksville Town Council member Tammy Mulchi, current legislative aide Kade Gravitt, Congressman Bob Good’s field director Dale Sturdifen and retiring Del. James Edmunds. 

Now as this was a mass meeting, the rules were a bit different than a primary. The goal was for one candidate to get at least 50% of the vote. Until that happened, the lowest vote getters were eliminated in each round. Vogler and Ferguson went out in the first round, which saw Mulchi win with 250 votes and Sturdifen come in second with 150. Round two saw the same result, with Mulchi and Sturdifen at the top of the list. This time, Gravitt was eliminated. And finally in the third round, it was Mulchi again winning, this time by 50 votes over Sturdifen. Out of the original 833, an estimated 500 voters stayed until that last round. 

So who is Tammy Mulchi? Aside from serving on the Clarksville Town Council, the Mecklenburg County native worked previously as both a legislative aide to Sen. Ruff and Del. Tommy Wright. Ruff also endorsed Mulchi’s bid, saying she “understands the issues facing our communities.” Mulchi is also a realtor in Clarksville and has a connection to this region through her daughter, Brittany Barnes, a fourth grade teacher in Blackstone. 

DEMOCRATS CHOOSE 

THEIR CANDIDATE 

On the Democratic side, things went a bit quicker Tuesday night. All total, 235 people came out to cast a ballot in the primary. In the end, it was former South Boston Vice Mayor Tina Wyatt Younger picking up the win, with 89 votes. 

Current Danville Vice Mayor Gary P. Miller came in second with 82 votes, while Trudy Berry, the former legal services specialist with the U.S. Air Force who ran against Ruff in this past November’s election, received 39 votes. Brenda Rather-Holman finished fourth, with 25 votes on the night. 

So who is Tina Wyatt Younger? She is a former South Boston Town Council member, having served from 2012- 2020. During her time on council, she served as a representative to the Virginia Municipal League, helped develop concepts for a Small Business Emergency Loan Program during the pandemic and served as a community volunteer for both the Halifax High Marching Band Boosters and the Prizery Community Arts Center Foundation, along with others. 

In a video posted to her Facebook page, Younger said she was thankful for everyone who came out to cast a ballot, as well as those who lifted her up in prayer and made calls to urge support. 

“I want to represent you all in District 9,” Younger said. “Thank you for coming out at 6 p.m. to vote for me. Thank you for coming out in a short turnaround to get to the voting places, even in the midst of chaos or just not knowing what to do, even when there were different locations and I say thank you from the bottom of my heart.” 

Younger said it’s not about acting a certain way or saying certain things. At the end of the day, she just puts her trust in God. 

“It’s about your name and keeping integrity when you do things,” Younger said. “You may go against the grain and may say things people don’t want you to say and you may not look the part people want you to look, but at the end of the day, he’s going to set you up. On Jan. 9, we’ve got to go out here and whoever my Republican colleague is, we’ve got to go out here and kick their behinds. We’ve got a change coming.” 

WHAT’S NEXT? 

The special election to fill Sen. Ruff’s seat will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 9. This will be just like any other election, with residents able to go to their regular polling places in District