Marion native Ken Heath will be on the Nov. 5 ballot.
He reported Wednesday that he received confirmation from the Virginia Department of Elections that he had met all the qualifications to run as an independent, including obtaining the necessary 250 signatures of registered voters.
Heath is seeking the Virginia senate seat for the 40th District, which is being vacated by Republican Sen. Bill Carrico, who opted not to seek reelection. Heath is opposing Delegate Todd Pillion, who is running on the GOP ticket. Early on Heath planned to challenge Pillion for the party’s nominations, but found the mass nomination process unfriendly to a challenger and decided to run as an independent.
Heath, who serves as Marion’s director of community and economic development, has found excitement for his candidacy.
"We are so pleased to have collected the signatures in just over a week. Folks are so excited to finally have a choice, someone that they can vote for instead of having only one choice, or even having to hold their nose to pick the best of two bad options. We are so excited at the support we continue to receive, from one end of the 40th to the other and all of the towns and communities in between,” said Heath in a press release.
“As the only Independent,” he said, “I will be here to represent people, not a political party and the huge machine that almost left our Southwest Virginia without a choice - again.”
Heath, who developed an award-winning entrepreneur training program that revitalized downtown Marion, wants to use that experience to foster development for the whole of Southwest Virginia.
This is Heath’s first state race but not his first election. He was elected to two terms on the Marion Town Council and was the first person in Southwest Virginia to achieve recognition as a "Certified Elected Official" by the Virginia Elected Officials Leadership Academy of the Virginia Municipal League in 2004. In 2018, Heath was accepted to the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership of the University of Virginia, where he graduated as the only representative in far Southwest Virginia. Earlier this year, Heath completed the Sorensen's Candidate Training Program.
"I've long had an interest in seeing how I can serve my neighbors, and when these opportunities came up, I'm so fortunate to be able to offer my experience, leadership, values and vision and to learn from so many great classmates.”
In his press release, Heath reflected, "Forty years ago this month, I was taking elective summer school to learn American government under Coach Charlie Harkins, and I remember him saying that any one of us could grow up to be governor. He never mentioned that we had to fall in line with the ‘right people’ to do it. Those values - of fairness, transparency, and honesty - that I have learned through leaders like Coach Harkins - are my foundation, and I promise to always uphold those for every citizen, not just a select few."
Heath is married to the former Pamela Wellman of Glade Spring, and the couple will celebrate their 29th year this month. They reside in Marion with their two dogs, Miss Reagan and Scottie.
Heath is holding a series of "Sticker Stops," through which citizens can pick up campaign materials at businesses and locations, and is selling "TeamKen" gear to help finance the campaign.