Democrat David Zilles running for Delegate in 23rd House district

By Keya Vakil

May 13, 2019

Virginia’s 23rd House of Delegates district has its first official nominee. Democrat David Zilles was named the nominee last week after being the only candidate to file with the local party.

He is running to succeed Del. Scott Garrett (R-Lynchburg), a surgeon who surprised state officials by announcing he would not seek re-election for another term.

Zilles told the News & Advance that he wants to implement “sensible gun reform measures,” including universal background checks for all firearm sales, stronger child access prevention laws, red-flag laws to keep guns from violent individuals and firearm safety campaigns.

Zilles, a father of two who originally hails from South Carolina, moved to Lynchburg in 2012 and works at a local nuclear company as a thermal fluids engineer. Zilles said he became politically active after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. In the aftermath of the deadly shooting, he joined the Lynchburg chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and later canvassed for candidates endorsed by the group.

His time as a Moms Demand activist spurred him to run for office, and while he intends to focus on gun violence, he also plans to campaign on increased funding for schools and pay raises for teachers, a gradual transition to universal healthcare, and replacing fossil fuels with clean and renewable energy alternatives.

Zilles’ run for office comes after a Republican-controlled subcommittee in the House of Delegates voted down several Democrat-sponsored gun safety bills. Republicans’ latest obstruction to gun safety bills comes 12 years after the deadly Virginia Tech massacre, in the aftermath of which, Virginia legislators actually made it easier to obtain guns.

Virginia currently has a “D” rating from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Zilles argued that many of the proposed gun safety bills would have reduced gun violence, especially a red-flag bill which would have allowed law enforcement officials to seize firearms from people who a judge determines “poses a substantial risk of injury to himself or others.”

If elected, Zilles said his first goal would be to bring that bill back to the House floor for a vote.

But before he can do that, Zilles will have a tough road ahead of him. The 23rd district has been a safe Republican district since the state map was redrawn in 2011 and Garrett won nearly two-thirds of the vote in 2017.

Zilles’ opponent will be determined by Republican voters in a June 11 primary.

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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