BLACKSBURG, Va. (CBS NEWS) – The tipping point for Chris Hurst came last fall while reporting on a shooting at a rail car factory. When the camera turned off, he wept.
Just more than a year earlier, the 29-year-old’s reporter girlfriend was gunned down while conducting an interview on live TV. Now, Hurst was using the same truck that Alison Parker had used the last day of her life to report live from the scene of another shooting.
Hurst realized he needed a drastic life change.
The former TV anchor is now running for political office, challenging a National Rifle Association-backed candidate for a competitive Virginia state House seat in a firearm friendly part of the state. Hurst sees it as a way to honor the memory of the woman he thought he’d marry and to give back to the community that helped him through his darkest days.
“When we understand that life is fragile, does that mean we give up and say life ain’t worth it? No,” Hurst said at a local Democratic committee meeting in March. “That’s when we say it is worth it, and we do what we can when we’re here to try to help another person.”
Hurst was living with Parker when she and cameraman Adam Ward were fatally shot while reporting for WDBJ-TV in August 2015. The gunman, Vester Flanagan, posted video of the attack online and killed himself hours later.
Hurst told “CBS This Morning” after the shooting that he and Parker were “living the dream, and that dream was shattered.”
After the shooting, Hurst became the public face of the grieving Roanoke station, bringing him national attention and a large social media following. That helped him become one of the top House candidate fundraisers last reporting period.
The Pennsylvania native, who quit his TV job and moved from Roanoke to Blacksburg to run in the 12th District, has been labeled a carpetbagger by Republicans looking to protect Del. Joseph Yost, a well-liked moderate. The district is among the few competitive House seats in southwest Virginia, a rural Republican stronghold.