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Ten Candidates Get a Pass in the Case of the Missing Paperwork

Freitas relaxes at podium at conservative conference
Del. Nick Freitas at the 2019 Young Americans for Liberty Convention in Detroit (Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons)

The Board of Elections granted an extension on Tuesday to 10 politicians who missed a key deadline for filing paperwork.

The list included eight Congressional candidates, all but one of them Republican, and two candidates for local office.

Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper), who is vying to take on Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-7th), and Republican Bob Good, who unseated Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-5th) in a nominating convention last month, were both granted extensions.

Chairman Bob Brink reluctantly tipped the scales in a 2-1 board vote.

Brink scolded the candidates for screwing up easy-to-follow rules -- ones he said he’d followed for 30 years since he volunteered on his first campaign. But he called the alternative of striking the candidates from the ballot “draconian.”

“As the process is structured right now, we’re forced to give a pass at the scofflaw at the expense of the candidates who follow the rules,” Brink said.

Brink was also annoyed that state code required the board to make the decision for the whole group rather than singling out individual candidates.

The episode marked the second time in as many years that Freitas missed a paperwork deadline. His lapse in last year’s House of Delegates race forced him to mount an expensive write-in campaign, steering valuable GOP campaign money to an otherwise safe district.

Addressing the board on Freitas’ behalf, former Rep. Tom Garrett (R-5th) argued that striking the candidates out would effectively disenfranchise voters who’d nominated the candidates. And he argued that the pandemic had altered the dates of the June Congressional primary as well as nominating conventions, causing confusion among the candidates.

Sanctioning the candidates “flies in the face of everything we’re trying to do” to empower voters during the pandemic, Garrett said.

Good made a similar point, arguing that he’d been chosen by a majority of convention-goers last month despite the fact that they were fully aware of his paperwork lapse.

But Aria Branch, an attorney representing the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said that Republicans were straining for excuses and that the rules should be enforced.

Granting the extension, she said, “would really send a message to the public and to future candidates that the deadlines are optional.”

Brink suggested that the General Assembly consider giving the board more flexibility to handle similar cases in the future.

Norfolk criminal defense attorney Jamilah LeCruise cast the lone vote against an extension. She and Brink were Northam’s Democratic appointees to the Board, while former Del. John O’Bannon is the board’s sole Republican.

Here’s the full list of candidates granted an extension alongside the district where they’re running for office:

  • Bob Good (R-5th)
  • Nicholas Betts (D-6th)
  • Nick Freitas (R-7th)
  • Peter Greenwald (R-7th)
  • Andrew Knaggs (R-7th)
  • Jason Roberge (R-7th)
  • Aliscia Andrews (R-10th)
  • Robert Jones (R-10th)
  • Jennifer Franklin (School Board - Virginia Beach)
  • Deanna Reed (Mayor - Harrisonburg)
Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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