Mike has three businesses. He is a third generation co-owner of Hamlar-Curtis Funeral Home which has been serving the community for 62 years. In 2009, Michael started Hamlar Enterprises, which is a business brokerage firm. The firm has engaged in multi-million dollar deals across the region, handling mergers, business acquisitions, business evaluations etc. In 2012, Michael and his wife, Katina, established Hamlar Properties, which is a property real estate firm that manages and oversees real estate transactions. Mike is also an adjunct professor at American National University in Salem, VA. He has been recognized by The Blue Ridge Journal as one of the "Top 20 leaders under 40."
At Wake Forest University Mike played football under Jim Caldwell and was on the Seattle Bowl championship team that defeated the University of Oregon. He is accustomed to winning and wants to take this race to the Republican incumbent, Ralph Smith.
A family man with three young children, Mike is faith-driven and confident that he can win this race. That will be a task. Mike likes to say that if you look at the 19th district, it is as though his one-year-old drew it. It encompasses part of Roanoke County, all of Floyd County, all of Salem, part of Montgomery County, all of Wythe and Carroll Counties, and part of Bedford. From end to end it stretches about 120 miles from end to end, not the way the crow flies, but the way the SUV drives, and it takes at least three sweeps to hit every location in it. That is why he has started early. He plans kickoffs in every locality.
Recently appointed by Governor McAuliffe to the Secure Commonwealth Panel, Mike is involved in the community both in business and local civic organizations like the Kiwanis Club, so he is hardly starting from a standstill or without connections. And quite frankly it seems he is always in motion, with clear aims. Right now his goal is to become as well known throughout the district as he is in Roanoke. He is certainly well liked among local Democrats.
His priorities are education, Medicaid expansion (which he hopes is accomplished before he makes it to the Senate), and economic development. He points out that a program like Marketplace Virginia would create 30,000 jobs while providing necessary preventive healthcare. Not yet the official Democratic nominee, he is eager to gain that distinction so that he can focus solely on Republican Smith.
Rumors are flying around today that Former State Senator Brandon Bell is about to become Brandon Bell, an Independent candidate to challenge incumbent GOP Senator Ralph Smith in the Senate seat based around Salem, Franklin and Roanoke.Given the popularity of Virginia's smoking ban in bars & restaurants (59% of Americans now want smoking banned in all public places), the support for clean air & public health that made Bell so unpopular in today's extremist Republican Party could make him a rock-solid centrist choice.
This is a strong GOP seat, but with Botetourt taken out of the district in redistricting, it's one where Brandon Bell defeated Smith in the Republican primary four years ago (when Smith won by less than 100 votes to snatch the seat from Bell). Without a Democratic candidate running, and lots of friends on the Republican side, Bell has an excellent shot of pulling off the upset as an Independent candidate of the ultra-conservative Smith.