Nick Freitas

Del. Nick Freitas listens to a supporter in Lake of Woods in Orange County in October.

Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, declared victory over Democratic challenger Ann Ridgeway Tuesday night, despite having to wage a write-in campaign for re-election.

The voting pattern in the 30th House District looked clear, but wasn’t certain, at the Star-Exponent’s press time. State Board of Elections workers must count every write-in ballot by hand, which will take a day or two.

Tuesday night, election officials tallied that 15,116 write-in votes were cast, or 57.9 percent of the total cast, compared with 10,996 votes—or 42.1 percent of the total—cast for Ridgeway of Madison.

Freitas had to launch the write-in effort after his campaign failed to file its state paperwork on time.

With such a large difference in votes, Freitas said in a phone interview that he felt comfortable that he had won re-election, by a big margin.

“My campaign people did a phenomenal job,” he said. “This was the largest, most complicated write-in campaign in state history. So I’m very grateful to my team.”

As to his legislative priorities, Freitas said: “We’re going to continue to work on the things that we have been doing. We’re going to try to make it easier to run a business.

“We’re going to try and make sure that our kids have access to career and technical education. We’re going to continue to defend life. We’re going to continue to defend Second Amendment rights.”

Asked if he ever thought the election’s result was in doubt, Freitas said: “Whenever you have to run as a write-in, obviously, you’re concerned about how it’s going to turn out. We thought we had a good chance of winning.

“But honestly, I did not think we were going to win with 58 percent of the vote. That’s a credit to all of our volunteers, to all of the local committees, to everybody that just worked incredibly hard.”

Ridgeway said she will wait for the State Board of Elections to certify the winner.

“I am at peace,” she wrote in an email. “I have enjoyed meeting so many amazing people in the 30th District. There are no words to express my appreciation for all their hard work and support in understanding what our campaign represents. We have done all we could do given the circumstances. A voice has been heard that should never be silent.”

Ridgeway said she wants Virginians “to realize that we are all winners and will continue to be lifted up as we are working for the needs of others, and not for ourselves. Never stop fighting for the rights of all people. We are equal in the eyes of God.”

A native Virginian who lives in Madison County, Ridgeway previously worked as a juvenile probation officer in Orange County. There, she helped establish the Youth Council and the Parks & Recreation Department.

Freitas’ campaign drew volunteers from all over Virginia, but his core staff is from Culpeper, he said. The libertarian-leaning candidate had campaign workers at each poll offering to coach voters on how to properly fill in a write-in ballot.

Campaign manager Joe Desilets told The Associated Press that the campaign hired political consultants who worked for U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who waged a successful write-in campaign in 2010.

Freitas’ campaign was greatly aided by a $500,000 donation from GOP megadonor Richard Uihlein, an Illinois billionaire. That dissuaded Democrats from investing a lot in the contest.

Asked if he would commit to serving a full term in office, Freitas replied: “Look, my job is to serve the people of the 30th District, and I’m going to continue to do that.”

Many in the GOP view Freitas as a rising political star. He is being mentioned as a possible challenger to Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Henrico, next year.

Last year, Freitas was backed by U.S. Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee in an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate. A former Green Beret, he advocates for more personal responsibility and less government.

His largely rural district between Charlottesville and Washington, D.C., leans heavily Republican. Donald Trump won it by nearly 30 percentage points in 2016.

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