The Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney is requesting a special prosecutor oversee an investigation into possible violations of election laws and forgery in U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor’s re-election campaign.
Taylor, a Republican from Virginia Beach representing the 2nd District, came under fire this week after it was revealed his paid staff members circulated a last-minute petition to get Shaun Brown, who is running as an independent, on the ballot.
Among the names his staff collected was Richard Cake, who died in April, his wife said in a radio interview this week, and two versions of Virginia Beach Republican Del. Glenn Davis’ signature.
Colin Stolle, Virginia Beach’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, appointed Donald Caldwell of Roanoke to take over the case. According to Brown’s candidacy paperwork, Colin Stolle’s brother and Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle, was one of the people Taylor’s staff got to sign Brown’s petition.
Ken Stolle doesn’t dispute his signature.
To run as an independent, Brown needed 1,000 signatures from eligible voters. About 1,900 signatures were turned in to the state on Brown’s behalf. Taylor’s staff collected about 700 of those.
It’s not clear which of the signatures submitted on Brown’s behalf went toward the final count to get her on the ballot.
It’s also not clear how many or which signatures are part of the investigation.
Getting Brown on the ballot gives Taylor two opponents and a possible advantage on Election Day. Democrat Elaine Luria, a Norfolk businesswoman and veteran, got the party nomination. Brown threatens to split Democratic voters, making it more likely Taylor comes out with a majority of votes.
Davis’ signature appears on the petition twice, each with the same date, according to the petitions filed with the state.
But Davis said he only signed once. One of the signatures isn’t his handwriting, he said, and the address is wrong. His first name is also misspelled, and is signed next to his wife’s name, which is also attached to the wrong address.
That signature — the one the delegate says isn’t his — is on a petition circulated by Daniel Bohner, who Taylor has paid for consulting services, but doesn’t appear to be a full-time campaign staffer.
Davis said he signs every petition brought to him and used to sign his opponents’ petitions during his tenure on the Virginia Beach City Council.
Anybody can gather signatures to get an independent candidate on a ballot, according to Virginia law. Those signatures don’t have to belong to a certain party and it’s not a pledge to vote for the candidate.
“If any one in my campaign did anything that was wrong or illegal … I would fire them in a second,” Taylor said in a Facebook Live video Monday afternoon.
Taylor has said he knew his staff collected signatures for Brown. He said Brown and other Democrats in Hampton Roads were shut out of the party’s primary process when the Democratic National Committee “hand-picked” Luria.
“I don’t agree with Shaun Brown on probably a lot of things but I definitely agree with her ability to have her voice heard,” Taylor said in his Facebook video. “I definitely agree with her ability to run in a primary that doesn’t have Washington Democrats coming here and controlling this process for our local people. I’d say the same thing if it was the Washington Republican Party.”
As a Democrat, Brown won 38 percent of the vote when she challenged Taylor in 2016.
Her trial was rescheduled to early October because the jury couldn’t come to a unanimous verdict.