SALEM, Va. (WDBJ7) Salem Delegate Greg Habeeb is stepping aside, and the race to replace him is now on.
Monday morning, longtime Roanoke County Supervisor Joe McNamara became the first candidate to say he's running for the 8th district seat.
Local Republican leaders joined McNamara for the announcement at his ice cream shop in Salem.
McNamara said he believes his extensive local experience and conservative voice will serve the region in Richmond.
"It is critically important that a good solid proven conservative goes to Richmond," McNamara told WDBJ7, "and furthers our objectives that so many of our voters are demanding and expecting from our delegates today."
After eight years in the House of Delegates, Habeeb says his responsibility to his family and his law firm are prompting him to resign from the General Assembly.
"I'm really excited about the future of our law firm. We'll get to talk about that more in the not too distant future," Habeeb said in an interview Monday morning. "My kids are at a really neat age. You know they're eighth grade, sixth grade, fourth grade, so to be more invested in them and to be more invested in my partners I'm really excited about the next chapter of our lives."
Habeeb's plan to exit by the end of August is receiving statewide attention. And a major reason is the 51 - 49 split in the House of Delegates.
If Democrats can pick up a single seat, they will change the political landscape in the legislature.
"This is a very unique opportunity for the Democrats," said Virginia Tech Professor and WDBJ7 Political Analyst Bob Denton. "And they would be, in my opinion, short-sighted if they did not try to find and recruit a very strong candidate and indeed put some money on this, because a lot is at stake. And with a turnout which may be from 15 percent to 20 percent... they certainly have an opportunity to win."
Denton has advice for Republicans as well. He says they should choose a candidate who is well-known, has elective experience and a conservative track record.