Department of Elections Rules Against Del. Nick Freitas

nick freitasIn what looked like a safe Republican district a couple months ago, Del. Nick Freitas has been facing difficulties with his candidacy ever since he failed to file the proper paperwork to get on the ballot this November. This ultimately means he might have to run a write-in campaign if some of the legal challenges he’s mounting aren’t successful in getting his name on the ballot.

As discussion continues about how to deal with the issue, Freitas just received another blow as the Virginia Department of Elections has refused to certify him as a replacement candidate (a party is able to replace a candidate if they drop out of the race by a certain date, which Freitas technically did even though he’s still trying to seek reelection). In explaining why they denied the latest move from the Republican lawmaker, the state says there’s no candidate for the GOP to replace since Freitas never filed the proper paperwork before the deadline.

A cursory look at why Freitas claims he missed the filing deadline doesn’t help the delegate’s case much. He maintains Bruce Kay, the chair of the 30th District Legislative Committee for the Republican Party, was supposed to handle filing all the paperwork. Kay claims he sent all the paperwork to the email address of someone who no longer works for the Department of Elections. But he couldn’t produce any evidence he sent them in because he claims computer issues caused him to lose “a couple years” worth of emails (funny, I still have emails dating back to my college days because they’re all stored on gmail’s servers).

Even if someone’s willing to believe the paperwork was sent to the wrong person on May 7 like the Republicans claim, one has to wonder why there was no followup to make sure everything was done correctly since they still had over a month until the official deadline. The chair of the Democratic committee, for instance, said he confirmed all the paperwork for the Democratic challenger (Ann Ridgeway) was received both via telephone and email.

I’ve been working as either a staff member or volunteer for campaigns since my days as a history major at George Mason University. One of the very first activities I did, in fact, was trying to get students to sign onto a petition for a statewide candidate on the ballot. Even as a volunteer who didn’t know much about the process at the time, I knew we had to get a certain number of signatures from each district and there were some areas that we needed to give extra attention to as the deadline approached. When I was a staff member for another candidate a couple years later, I was sent on a last minute road trip to collect signatures from residents of the sixth congressional district because we were struggling to get the required amount there.

In other words, preparing all the basic requirements to get on the ballot is a requirement everybody knows about and it’s one of the first “tests” a campaign faces. While none of tasks are difficult or complicated, they’re things candidates must focus on and know they have to handle correctly. It therefore raises a lot of questions about how organized Del. Nick Freitas was in his reelection efforts if he couldn’t even collect the signatures and file the proper paperwork to get on the ballot in November. And I’m not the only person who’s expressed these sentiments.

“I have to say that that’s just a complete rookie mistake,” Democratic activist Terry Anderson told the Daily Progress. “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.”

Despite all the “rookie mistakes” Freitas and the local Republican Party made and their inability to prove they even attempted to file the paperwork, Freitas is still trying to assert there’s some kind of conspiracy to keep him off the ballot. He says he’ll appeal the Department of Elections’ decision to the state board of elections and will pursue other options if that’s unsuccessful.

“I am not about to allow a Department in Richmond to disenfranchise the voters of the 30th District by denying the same ballot access they have granted to other candidates,” Freitas said after the decision became public. “If that means mounting a successful write-in campaign in order to give the voters an option, then that is exactly what we will do.”

The delegate went on to claim the state board would simply be playing “partisan politics” and going against “years of precedent” if they don’t allow him to get away with missing the filing deadlines. To many people, it almost sounds as though he’s channeling Donald Trump’s supporters by claiming the deep state is out to get him.

All of this is noteworthy because there is a good chance the Democrats will be able to flip the House of Delegates in this November. Freitas represents a relatively safe Republican district that wasn’t even on most people’s radar prior to the filing snafu. He won the district with 62% of the vote in 2017 despite having a well funded opponent and it being an extremely successful year for Democrats, Trump won it with similar margins in 2016, and he didn’t even face a Democratic challenger when he won his first term in 2015.

If he’s forced to run a write-in campaign, however, it’s far from a sure thing that he’ll be able to win. There’s already low turnout in odd year elections and that’s especially the case in years like 2019 where there’s no statewide races on the ballot. Combine that with how many folks can’t even name their delegate, it could be hard to encourage people to get out to the polls and actually write-in his name (and don’t forget they’d also have to do the little things like spelling his last name correctly). As a result, the 30th District has turned into another pickup possibility for the Democrats that could help them flip the House.

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