Ben Chafin, a Republican state senator from Virginia, has died of complications of Covid-19, the State Senate’s Republican Caucus confirmed on Friday evening. He had been receiving treatment at the VCU Medical Center in Richmond for two weeks, his family said in a statement.
Mr. Chafin, 60, was first elected to Virginia’s Senate in 2014. Before his time as senator he served as a member of Virginia’s House of Delegates. He was also the owner and operator of a cattle farm in Moccasin Valley, in the state’s southwest.
“Ben was deeply and wholeheartedly committed to the commonwealth, and especially to the people of Southwest Virginia,” said Thomas K. Norment Jr., the State Senate’s Republican leader.
In 2018, Mr. Chafin was one of four Republicans who successfully supported the expansion of Medicaid in Virginia when his party controlled the Senate.
“Doing nothing about the medical conditions, the state of health care in my district, just wasn’t the answer any longer,” he said on the Senate floor.
That same year, he sponsored a bill to allow guns in churches in response to a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in which more than two dozen people were killed. The bill stalled in the House.
Mr. Chafin grew up working on his family’s farm and had a part-time job at a local meatpacking plan while in high school, according to his Senate website. He and his sister became the first members of their family to graduate from college, and he went on to earn a law degree from the University of Richmond School of Law.
Gov. Ralph Northam offered his condolences to Mr. Chafin’s family on Friday, saying in a statement that he “will always be grateful” for Mr. Chafin’s “courageous vote to expand health care for people who need it.”
“This is sad news, to begin a new year with the loss of a kind and gracious man,” Mr. Northam said. “May we all recommit to taking extra steps to care for one another.”
Local news outlets reported that Mr. Chafin’s family will not have a formal burial service. At his behest, they said, the family is requesting food bank donations “in lieu of flowers and other acts of kindness.”