The background of two House of Delegates candidates is becoming public in the race for the open seat in the 59th District, which includes Appomattox County and parts of the counties of Albemarle, Nelson and Campbell.
Independent candidate Linda Wall of Appomattox has acknowledged lesbian behavior, including a relationship with a junior-high student when Wall was a gym teacher in the 1970s. Wall now describes herself as an ex-gay person.
Republican candidate Matt Fariss of Rustburg was named in an emergency protective order in 2002 that required him to stay away from a Lynchburg woman. Fariss’ campaign manager said Wednesday that Fariss was not available for comment.
Supporters of Democratic candidate Connie Brennan pushed out reports of the protective order concerning Fariss, whose background also includes four misdemeanor convictions related to hunting violations and a DUI.
Brennan is the Democratic nominee in the three-way race for the seat of Del. Watkins Abbitt, I-Appomattox, who is retiring after 26 years representing the 59th District.
Information about Wall was revealed by Paul Jost, who was Wall’s opponent in a 2002 political campaign in the Hampton Roads area.
Jost sent a copy of a deposition that Wall gave to lawyers during a lawsuit Jost filed against state Sen. Tommy Norment, R-Newport News, the eventual winner of the seat that both Jost and Wall had sought.
In that 2006 deposition, Wall admitted she was asked to resign from a teaching job in the Petersburg area after a junior-high student’s parents complained about a relationship between Wall and their daughter in the 1970s.
Wall, when asked about the deposition, said, “I am not the person I was 40 years ago.”
“I was a pot smoker with impaired judgment, and made some bad choices fresh out of college,” Wall said.
Wall said she became a Christian and has given her testimony in several churches about how she left her lesbian lifestyle and became ex-gay. She says she lobbied in the General Assembly for pro-life issues and the Marriage Amendment to the Virginia Constitution five years ago.
Fariss, who has refused to talk to The News & Advance of Lynchburg about any of his legal issues, is getting financial support from state Republican Party officials for his campaign, which is making heavy use of mailed brochures. Some of them describe his family values.
A Lynchburg police officer asked a city magistrate to issue an emergency protective order on March 9, 2002, that required Fariss to stay away from a Lynchburg woman.
The officer’s request said the woman “stated to me that Fariss broke through her back door to gain entry into her house when she told him to leave. History of violence.”
The protective order expired after five days.
John Myers of Nelson County was among the Brennan supporters who emailed news media outlets about Fariss’ legal record, which includes a concealed-weapon conviction in 2002 and a driving-under-the-influence conviction in 1997.
Myers also said, and court records show, that Fariss has been involved in several civil lawsuits stemming from his business activities in real estate, farming and cattle. He’s an owner of the Lynchburg Livestock Market.
Brennan made an unsuccessful run for the House against Abbitt in 2007. Referring to Fariss’s encounters with the law, she made this statement Wednesday:
“I am outraged and shocked that anyone with a criminal record would even consider representing me in the Virginia General Assembly. On top of his rap sheet, to terrorize a woman to [the] point she had to call law enforcement for help, there is a reported history of violence. This is outside the norms of any family values that I can think of.
“Also, I am mystified that Republican leaders in Central Virginia would heavily recruit such a person to be the face of their party in the 59th House of Delegates district. I’m sure many Republicans will also be outraged and will wonder what is behind the continuing support of this person with disregard for the law,” Brennan said.
Ray Reed reports for the Lynchburg News & Advance.