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Virginia state Sen. Ben Chafin dies from COVID complications at age 60

A Virginia lawmaker who also worked as a farmer and a lawyer died from COVID-19 complications on New Year’s Day, state officials announced Friday night.

“It is with profound sadness and sorrow that we learned of the passing of our good friend and colleague, Ben Chafin, this evening,” the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus said in a statement.

The 60-year-old state senator, who represented the 38th district in Russell County, had been hospitalized for about two weeks before he succumbed to the illness this weekend. He’s one of more than 5,100 Virginians who have died from coronavirus since the pandemic began.

Chafin was first elected to the state’s House of Delegates in 2013 before winning a senate seat in a special election the following year.

In this Feb. 28, 2020 photo, Virginia State Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Russell, listens to debate on the floor of the Senate during the session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va.
In this Feb. 28, 2020 photo, Virginia State Sen. Ben Chafin, R-Russell, listens to debate on the floor of the Senate during the session at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. (Steve Helber/AP)

“To us, Ben was more than a dedicated colleague who exemplified the best in public service. He was a treasured friend, unrelentingly cheerful with an infectious smile and gregarious manner,” the GOP caucus said in its statement.

The late senator drew praise from both parties, especially after he broke with Republicans and voted in 2018 to expand Medicaid in the state, according to The Washington Post.

“I knew Ben as a lawmaker, an attorney, a banker, and a farmer raising beef cattle in Moccasin Valley, working the land just as generations of his family had done before him,” said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat.

“He loved the outdoors, and he loved serving people even more,” Northam said in a statement. “He pushed hard to bring jobs and investment to his district, and I will always be grateful for his courageous vote to expand health care for people who need it.”

Chafin is survived by his mother, sister, wife, three children, grandchildren and sister, state Supreme Court Justice Teresa Chafin.

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