Republicans pick their nominee to fill Puckett's seat in Va. Senate

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Del. Ben Chafin is the Republican nominee for the special election to fill former Sen. Phil Puckett's seat.

Chafin won the GOP nod against two opponents at a mass meeting Thursday at the Tazewell County Fairgrounds. He'll face Tazewell County Supervisor Mike Hymes, a Democrat, in the special election set for Aug. 19.

Rick Mullins, the owner of a funeral home in Clintwood, says he plans to run as an independent.

The winner of the 38th District special election will decide which party controls the state Senate.

Puckett, a Democrat, shocked Virginia's political world with his sudden resignation on June 9. It gave Republicans a 20-19 advantage in the upper chamber.

The 38th District leans heavily Republican, and GOP candidates won by large margins in last year's elections.