Legislator knows where blame truly lies in ballot screw-up 

August 7, 2019 4:21 pm

Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

Del. Nicholas Freitas asserts state elections officials are picking on him. 

The bullies. They won’t give him a pass for his inattention to detail.

The Culpeper Republican even took to his Facebook page last week, casting aspersions on two of Gov. Ralph Northam’s appointees on the state Board of Elections. 

Freitas was a little light, though, in the FB screed to followers Aug. 2 about his own responsibility – or failure – in all of this. Namely, that he and his campaign staff didn’t get paperwork related to his candidacy on time to the state Department of Elections. The state also said Freitas didn’t send another form that he should’ve personally filed as a candidate.

My phone, email and Facebook messages to the delegate weren’t returned.

A last-minute gambit Tuesday, initiated by the lone Republican on the three-member Board of Elections, failed to get Freitas on the ballot, as well. That was the correct call.

I know government officials can adhere to rules often in a seemingly arbitrary fashion. Yet Freitas, who was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2015, can’t claim he doesn’t know the ballot routine. There are procedures and deadlines to follow. It’s not his first rodeo, after all.

His criticisms of the department and the Board of Elections are misplaced and cynical, designed to deflect from his own shortcomings. Freitas could still win a promised write-in campaign, but it will be a tougher slog than if his name were on the ballot. 

Democrat Ann Ridgeway is the lone candidate listed for the 30th District on the department’s website. It’s her first bid for elective office, but the road might have just gotten easier. 

Let’s peel back the layers of this headache for Freitas – and by extension, his party.

This controversy is critical because the GOP holds a thin majority in the state House (and state Senate, too). A few seats swinging to the Democrats could alter the legislation that passes both chambers.

Republicans were counting on Freitas to easily retain his seat in the solidly red, rural district of Culpeper, Madison and Orange counties. In 2017, he beat the Democrat 62 to 38 percent in an anti-Trump wave that nearly turned the state House blue. 

This year, he didn’t face a primary challenger. But then his troubles started, according to news reports: 

The Department of Elections said it didn’t get the delegate’s paperwork on time. He later exited the race so local Republicans could name him as a replacement candidate, but that tactic ultimately failed because of the regulations

The fact Freitas that didn’t file a candidate qualification form is one big difference, an elections official told me, between Freitas’ situation and other candidates the board later allowed on the ballot in their respective contests.

On his Facebook post last week, Freitas said he’s the candidate that Republicans in the 30th District wanted on the ballot. “Unfortunately, the Department of Elections decided to grant extensions to everyone except me,” he said, suggesting persecution – as well as partisanship by the two Democrats on the board. 


Northam, of course, is a Democrat. He gets to name a majority of members on bodies such as the Board of Elections. So it’s a little disingenuous to complain about the composition. 

It’s also true the board unanimously approved appeals by candidates from both parties, including Republican Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, and Democratic candidate Clinton Jenkins. The latter will face Republican Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk. 

I’d also note that two board members know a few things about this routine, because they’re General Assembly veterans. 

Democrat Robert Brink, the chair, is a former delegate from Arlington. Republican John O’Bannon, the vice chair, is a former delegate from the Richmond area. Both served more than a dozen years in the state legislature. 

The third member is attorney Jamilah D. LeCruise, who runs her own law firm in Norfolk. The Democrat is active in party politics in Norfolk. 

It’s a time-worn tactic by politicians to complain about others when they, in fact, failed to follow the procedures. They then beg governing bodies to forgive their preventable mistakes. It’s sort of like the old excuse: “The dog ate my homework. Can you cut me some slack?”

Freitas, like many before him, knows where the real problem lies. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Roger Chesley
Roger Chesley

Longtime columnist and editorial writer Roger Chesley worked at the (Newport News) Daily Press and The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot from 1997 through 2018. He previously worked at newspapers in Cherry Hill, N.J., and Detroit. Reach him at [email protected]