Scott Wyatt, the GOP nominee in the 97th House District, on Tuesday urged Republicans to look forward and unite now that Del. Chris Peace has dropped his bid to retain the seat.

“I wish him well and I want to thank him for his service,” to the district, Wyatt said of Peace in a brief telephone interview.

“We as Republicans need to look forward and come together” and have “a strong finish in November” as Republicans work to preserve their legislative majorities, said Wyatt, who has served on the Hanover County Board of Supervisors for four years.

With the retirement of Del. Matthew James, D-Portsmouth, who took a job in the Northam administration, Republicans head into the elections with a 51-48 edge in the House.

A court-imposed map has made six GOP-held districts more Democratic by at least a dozen percentage points, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, whose district has become more Democratic by 32 percentage points, also thanked Peace for his service on Tuesday and pledged to work with Wyatt to maintain a GOP majority in the House.

“Chris Peace is a dear and loyal friend of mine, and I will miss him in the House. He served the people of the 97th District well during his 13 years as delegate, rising to a committee chair and House budget conferee,” Cox said. “He is passionate about our young people and the future of the commonwealth. I am grateful for his service and wish him, Ashley, and the Peace family the very best in their next journey.”

Cox added, “Over the last several months, I have consistently said the only thing that matters is holding the majority. No one should be satisfied with the process, but now is the time to focus on November. I commend Scott on his nomination. He is an experienced public servant and I look forward to working with him to hold the 97th District and protect our majority.”

Peace is chairman of the General Laws Committee and a member of the Appropriations Committee and the Health, Welfare and Institutions panel.

Peace said in a Facebook statement late Monday night that he is dropping his bid to hold the seat after losing the contentious nomination fight to Wyatt. Peace said that “further litigation of this contest does not serve the best interests of the district” and that as the selected nominee, Wyatt “will help Republicans hold the majority and continue to promote common sense policies that make our Commonwealth the best place to live, work and raise a family.”

Republicans have held the 97th District seat since 2002. The district covers all of New Kent, plus parts of Hanover and King William counties. New Kent resident Kevin Washington, who works for the Department of Defense in information technology, is running as a Democrat.

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