PHOTO: Del. Freitas

Del. Nick Freitas, R–Culpeper.

IN THE You-Can’t-Make-This-Up

Department, Del. Nick Freitas,

R–Culpeper, a two-term incumbent in a heavily Republican House district, has to run a write-in-campaign for reelection this November because he didn’t file the proper paperwork on time.

Freitas said that the certification forms required for placement on the ballot were emailed to state officials about a month before the June 11 deadline, but mistakenly sent to the email address of a former employee who no longer works at the Virginia Department of Elections.

Another Republican, Del. Terry Kilgore, R–Scott, also missed his filing deadline, but unlike Freitas, Kilgore’s name will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.

The Free Lance–Star asked Jessica Bowman, deputy commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections, about the apparent discrepancy.

“Mr. Freitas failed to submit more than one form designated to certify his candidacy, which was different than the Kilgore case,” Bowman replied. “First, Mr. Freitas’ local Republican legislative committee did not file the paperwork required to certify that he was the party’s nominee. Furthermore, Mr. Freitas did not submit the paperwork he was personally required to submit to certify his candidacy.”

Five days after Freitas withdrew from the race, the 30th District Republican Legislative Committee renominated him a second time, hoping to get his name on the ballot under a state law that allows parties to nominate a replacement after the filing deadline if the candidate dies or withdraws.

But the three-member State Board of Elections nixed that idea, citing another state law that says that “a candidate who has been disqualified for failing to meet the filing requirements … shall not be renominated.” So Democratic challenger Ann Ridgeway’s name will be on the ballot in the 30th District, which covers part of Culpeper County and all of Orange and Madison counties, but Freitas’ will not.

The Culpeper Republican—who offers no excuses for the paperwork error—has already raised nearly $550,000 and hired political consultants who helped Sen. Lisa Murkowski win her write-in campaign in Alaska in 2010. “Honestly, all it’s done is made me mad,” said Freitas, who won the district with 62 percent of the vote during Virginia’s 2017 “blue wave” election.

But an incumbent having to run a write-in campaign is a self-imposed handicap that Republicans didn’t need this year.

However, the Freitas paperwork flub is just another wild card in a wild year that, so far, has seen blackface scandals involving top Democrats Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring; a sex scandal involving Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax; a court-ordered redistricting affecting the top two House Republicans, Speaker Kirk Cox, R–Colonial Heights, and House Appropriations Committee chairman Chris Jones, R–Suffolk; a special session on gun control that lasted all of 90 minutes; and an upset loss by Del. Bob Thomas, R–Fredericksburg, in the GOP primary.

Meanwhile, with all 40 seats in the state Senate and all 100 seats in the House of Delegates up for grabs, outside money is pouring into the commonwealth. At stake is not only Republicans’ razor-thin control of the General Assembly, but the once-in-a-decade opportunity to draw new congressional and legislative district lines following the 2020 census.

Legislative elections used to be low-interest, low-turnout affairs that barely attracted the attention of residents of the commonwealth, let alone a national audience. Not anymore. For better or for worse, the entire nation will be watching what happens in Virginia this November.

So stay tuned: This year’s statehouse races promise to be more interesting that reality TV.

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