Del. Nick Freitas

Del. Nick Freitas of Virginia's 30th District found out on June 27 that the Virginia Department of Elections did not receive his certification paperwork for the Nov. 5 ballot.

Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) is in the midst of a re-election campaign in Virginia’s 30th District, but it turns out the two-term state delegate’s name is not certified to appear on the ballot on November 5.

Culpeper County General Registrar and Director of Elections James Clements made the discovery Wednesday. He said he received confirmation yesterday from Matthew Abell, the state’s election administrator, that Freitas’ certification paperwork was not on file.

Clements said he was making sure all candidates for Culpeper County elections, “from the school board on up,” appeared on a list generated by the Virginia Department of Elections. It was while going over this list that he noticed Freitas’ name was missing. The 30th House of Delegates’ District includes all of Orange and Madison counties and part of Culpeper County, where Freitas lives.

Elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2017, Freitas said via email Friday evening that the snafu came about because the chair of the Republican legislative district committee for the 30th District—Bruce Kay of Locust Grove—apparently “sent the forms to the email address of the individual whom he sent them to two years ago, but no longer works there.”

Freitas nevertheless expressed confidence his candidacy would be certified.

The Virginia State Board of Elections met today, and the “determination of candidate qualifications” was listed on the agenda posted on the board’s webpage. When contacted about Freitas, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections Christopher Piper responded that the board deferred the Freitas matter to a later date that has not been set. 

The question as to whether his name will be on the ballot caught Freitas and his campaign off guard.

Yesterday, Kay initially thought everything had gone through. He said he emailed certification paperwork on May 7, in advance of the filing deadline of June 11, to Paul Stenbjorn at the Virginia elections department but had not received confirmation of its receipt. A search for Stenbjorn on the department website indicates, as Freitas suggested, that Stenbjorn no longer is employed there.

Complicating the situation, Kay said today that he discovered his computer files are “corrupt” and that he has lost “a couple of years’ worth” of emails, including documents related to the election and personal correspondence.

Terry Anderson, chair of the 30th Democratic legislative district committee, was responsible for filing paperwork for Freitas' Democratic challenger. He said he got confirmation by phone and email that the state elections office received the required certification forms for Ann Ridgeway, a political newcomer.

Regarding the Freitas campaign’s apparent failure to make sure all the forms were properly filed, he said, “I have to say that that’s just a complete rookie mistake. It happens now and then, but anybody involved in politics knows that there is a process. There are rules set by the state. You have to go through and make sure that you comply with the rules.”

It is not clear how things will play out for Freitas, whose situation is similar to that of Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Scott), a Virginia state delegate in District 1. After learning this week that the state elections office had not received his certification paperwork, Kilgore protested to the state board of elections. (Update: The Virginia Mercury reports that the board decided during its meeting today to allow Kilgore to be listed on the ballot in District 1.)

In the meantime, Ridgeway is proceeding with caution. In a formal statement, she said, “Though I am still unsure of the exact circumstances of this situation, it is of course my understanding that all forms must be filed by the various deadlines to have a candidate’s name on the November 5th ballot.”

His third day on the job, Ridgeway’s campaign manager David Birkenthal was dealing with the surprising development.

“These are election laws,” he said. “Just because you’re a delegate doesn’t mean you get to go above them.”

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Hilary Holladay covers education and politics for the Orange County Review. The author of five books, she is currently writing a biography of the poet Adrienne Rich.

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