A competitive House of Delegates contest appears unlikely for the former mill town of Danville after Democratic leaders rebuffed Jasmine Lipscomb's attempts to become the party's nominee. (Sarah Vogelsong/Virginia Mercury)
Danville military veteran Jasmine Lipscomb said Tuesday that she’s still heard nothing from the Democratic Party of Virginia about her complaints the party is unduly blocking her from running for the House of Delegates, which means the party will most likely have no candidate to oppose Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, this fall.
With the conclusion of last week’s legislative primaries, deadlines have now passed for Democratic officials to file a key form with the Virginia Department of Elections that would put Lipscomb on the November ballot.
In an interview, Lipscomb said she’s gotten no word from the party in response to an official complaint she filed alleging she was unfairly denied a place on the ballot after she did not submit the required $500 filing fee or 100 voter signatures.
“I’ve heard nothing from nobody,” Lipscomb said. “Nothing on my complaint. Nothing on my emails. Nothing on whether I’m the nominee.”
Lipscomb’s complaint claims the party didn’t follow its own rules about who can serve on legislative nominating committees and, by imposing a $500 fee she says she couldn’t afford, discriminated against her based on her “economic status.”
A DPVA spokesman said Tuesday that Lipscomb “never filed to run for the House of Delegates” but declined to comment further. State officials confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Democratic officials filed no paperwork nominating a candidate in House District 49. The district leans Republican, but Lipscomb’s supporters argue it has a big enough Black population, about 40%, that it’s not entirely out of reach for Democrats.
Lipscomb said she got a chance over the weekend to press her case directly to DPVA Chair Susan Swecker at the party’s annual fundraising gala. But that encounter ended, she said, with Swecker chastising her for refusing to discuss the issue over the phone after being offered an opportunity to speak with party Executive Director Shyam Raman on June 9.
Email correspondence shows Lipscomb asked DPVA officials to communicate with her only in writing.
“I was uncomfortable with everything going on so I would rather have email traffic for legality reasons,” Lipscomb said. “At that point, I don’t know who to trust.”
Many who work in Democratic politics also see the Lipscomb episode as an unfortunate breakdown in trust, but they feel her problems are largely self-inflicted. Others feel that no matter what caused the procedural dispute, it’s better for the party to help a willing candidate run than to have no candidate at all.
Lipscomb did not file to run as a candidate prior to the state’s April deadline for regular primaries. When the local Democratic nominating committee attempted to hold a caucus to give her a shot at becoming the party’s nominee against Marshall, she didn’t comply with the caucus filing requirements. When she pressed the committee to make her the nominee anyway, she got a stern response from local Democratic activist Patricia Harper-Tunley, who accused Lipscomb of “cutting corners and disregarding policy.”
“I must inform you that the integrity of the process and providing the voters with the best possible candidate is the one and only goal of this committee and [we] will not succumb to tactics of deceit and the attempt of intimidation,” Harper-Tunley wrote in a May 24 email.
With no reversal by Democratic leaders, Lipscomb says she’s considering whether she has grounds for a legal challenge and has turned her attention toward state officials at the elections department.
She’s urged election officials to accept her as a Democratic candidate despite the lack of paperwork designating her as such, pointing to several prior examples of the state making exceptions for late or missing candidacy paperwork. Her case is different, mainly because the state would have to overrule the Democratic Party to put her on the ballot as a Democratic candidate. Other recent paperwork issues have been largely about human error and missed deadlines, not a party withholding its support altogether.
However, the state has limited power to resolve disputes within a political party. In a lawsuit earlier this year, a Virginia judge chastised the elections department for deferring to the Republican Party of Virginia over a lower-ranking GOP official in a dispute over whether a state Senate nominating contest would be decided via a government-run primary or a party-run convention.
In that ruling, the judge pointed to a “statutory wall that exists between the government and the workings of the political parties in the Commonwealth.”
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