WINCHESTER — Del. Christopher Collins, a Republican who has represented the 29th District in the Virginia House of Delegates since 2016, resigned his seat effective Sunday after being appointed a 26th Judicial District judge.
Collins, who was elected to his third two-year term to the state legislature in November, will succeed Judge William Warner Eldridge IV, who served the general district courts in Winchester, Frederick County and Harrisonburg.
“It has been my pleasure to serve the citizens of the 29th District in the House of Delegates and I look forward to continuing my service but in a different capacity,” Collins, 49, wrote in a brief resignation letter to House of Delegates Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-41.
The 29th District includes the City of Winchester and parts of Frederick and Warrren counties.
Collins, a lawyer and lifelong Frederick County resident, told The Star a special election will be held in November to fill the remainder of his term, which expires Dec. 31, 2021. The deadline for candidates to file is Aug. 14, according to elections officials.
As a delegate, Collins advocated for legislation to prohibit people from holding personal communications devices while driving for safety reasons. Such legislation was passed this year by the General Assembly, though Collins did not introduce the bill. He also voted against Virginia raising its minimum wage, fearing it would hurt small businesses, and opposed many gun control efforts, including red flag laws, which he felt were overly broad.
Collins graduated from James Wood High School in 1990 and went on to earn his law degree from the University of Baltimore in 2003.
The 26th Judicial Circuit encompasses the cities of Winchester and Harrisonburg and the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Warren.
On Monday, Winchester City Councilor Bill Wiley, R-Ward 1, announced he would seek the Republican nomination to run for the 29th District seat.
If elected, Wiley, 49, said in a press release announcing his candidacy that he would "continue to fight for our fair share of tax dollars from Richmond, work to repeal unfunded mandates on our localities, create a better job climate, and push for common sense policies that will make the Commonwealth a better place to live, work and raise a family."
Wiley told The Star he would push for legislation that would give localities more control over issues that impact them. He would also push for more improvements along Interstate 81, which passes through the 29th District.
"It would be my honor to serve in the House of Delegates,” Wiley said in the release. “I have never been afraid to stand up for what's right, and I won't back down in Richmond. You can count on me to stand up for our values. I proudly support our Second Amendment, the Right to Life, will reject costly tax hikes, and will oppose radical initiatives to defund the police that will make us less safe.”
Wiley said he believes Virginia localities should have more of a say in how they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are hamstrung by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam's orders. He thinks the Winchester-Frederick County area could have reopened businesses sooner. "It’s time to get back to work," he said.
He said he opposes more gun control legislation and believes that efforts to address mental health issues would be more effective in combating gun violence. He also opposes abortion and what he calls “Ralph Northam’s infanticide agenda.”
Wiley also opposes tearing down statues and monuments, including Confederate monuments. There is a current online petition to relocate a Confederate soldier statue on Winchester's Loudoun Street Mall. The statue is on property owned by Frederick County that has been deeded to the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation for 200 years.
“It’s history,” Wiley told The Star. “We need to move forward and learn from it and work together on how we can improve our relationship. It gets into a slippery slope with what’s going on now in the state of Virginia.”
Wiley has been a member of City Council since 2014, serving as vice president in 2015 and president in 2018. Prior to being elected to City Council, he served for five years on the Winchester Planning Commission and was chairman for three of those years.
He is business development manager for Howard Shockey and Sons Inc. and an associate real estate broker at Oakcrest Commercial Real Estate. He and his wife Katy have three sons, Clarke, Stewart and Dawson. He is a graduate of George Mason University with a bachelor of science degree in economics and a master's degree in education.
Wiley is the only candidate who has announced his candidacy for Collins' seat.
William Fuller, chairman of the Winchester-Frederick County Democratic Committee, said there are a few people who are exploring their options to run.