First of two parts.
Two area legislators are facing two unusual controversies. The potential political impact of the two incidents — one involving Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, and the other, Rep. Denver Riggleman — varies greatly.
The problem facing Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, is of a serious nature. It will keep Mr. Freitas off the ballot for the 30th House District this fall.
Mr. Freitas and his Republican backers made two errors in filing his candidacy for re-election.
He was several weeks late in submitting a form that declares him eligible to run for office. Get that: several weeks late; he filed July 1 for a June 11 deadline.
Additionally, his district committee didn’t file certification paperwork on time, either. The district chairman says he had an excuse: He sent the paperwork to an individual at the State Board of Elections, only to discover too late that the person no longer worked there.
Mr. Freitas says the board is treating him differently because it’s forgiven paperwork lapses in the past. He implies that the board — composed of one Republican and two Democrats — is being unfair to him.
But by his own admission, approval of late paperwork occurred when only one deadline had been missed — not two.
Additionally, the board in its current membership configuration has accepted late paperwork from one Democrat and one Republican. That hardly supports the claim of bias.
We’d agree that paperwork sent to the board but to the wrong person reasonably could be accepted. But to overlook an additional error — and especially one in which the deadline was missed by weeks — would be too lenient.
In a desperate move, Mr. Freitas withdrew his candidacy rather than risk a negative decision from the board on accepting the two late documents.
Instead, he refiled his candidacy under a law that allows political parties to replace a candidate who dies or withdraws.
So, essentially, Mr. Freitas — who wasn’t an officially accepted candidate to begin with — withdrew himself and re-proposed himself.
That’s despite a provision of the same law that says a candidate disqualified by failing to file paperwork cannot be renominated. Mr. Freitas and the party were trying to get around that provision by withdrawing his name before the Board of Elections could formally disqualify him.
The board was not amused, however, and this week officially rejected the renomination ploy.
That leaves Mr. Freitas with two remaining possibilities: Fight the outcome in court — and waste precious campaign time on a huge gamble — or run as a write-in candidate — and accept the political burden of not having his name on the prepared ballot.
The dilemma matters, because without a Republican candidate listed on the ballot, Democratic opponent Ann Ridgeway gains a potential advantage. Those voters who walk into the booth without having bothered to follow the campaign or the candidates are likely to mark their ballots for the only name presented to them.
And that matters because Democrats are trying mightily to overturn the Republican majority in the General Assembly. They came close to doing so in the last election, and were energized to press for still more gains this year.
Republican errors, leaving no GOP candidate on the ballot, have made it just that much easier for Democrats in their campaign to win the 30th District.
Next: Rep. Denver Riggleman