BEDFORD — A Bedford County businesswoman announced Monday that she will run as a Democrat for the 19th District seat in the House of Delegates.
Political newcomer Reagan Flaherty will challenge Del. Terry Austin, R-Botetourt, for the job he has held since 2014 representing Alleghany and Botetourt counties, Covington and part of Bedford County.
Standing in front of Liberty High School, Flaherty said she will work to make sure public education receives its fair share of funding from Richmond.
“I am a passionate advocate for improving our public schools, and it is important we recognize the pivotal role teachers play for our children’s future,” she said.
Monday’s announcement means that six of the eight delegates who represented the Roanoke and New River valleys and Bedford County in this year’s General Assembly will face challengers in November.
The only two delegates so far unopposed in those areas are Dels. Nick Rush, R-Christiansburg, and Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke.
Flaherty, 38, is making her first bid for elected office. She is a business solutions representative for Shentel, a telecommunications business, and owns real estate investments in the area. She also has served as chair of the Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce.
“I work with small businesses every day,” she said. “They serve as the foundation of our community.”
Pledging to work for better jobs, Flaherty said that “no one should feel they have to move away from our district to be successful. We have so much to offer right here and we will work together to create even more opportunities.”
Speaking before a crowd of about 15 supporters, Flaherty — who served in the Coast Guard for two years — became emotional when she talked about a family tradition of military service that goes back to her grandfather fighting in World War II.
Born at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Flaherty grew up in Botetourt County and lives in Bedford with her husband and two children.
Austin said Monday that he recently filed paperwork to seek a third term.
He ran unopposed two years ago, but faced opposition in both the primary and general election in 2013 when he first sought a House seat that was occupied for 52 years by independent Lacey Putney of Bedford.