Board of Elections member makes unsuccessful push to get Del. Nick Freitas on the ballot

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

John O’Bannon, the lone Republican on the Board of Elections, made two failed motions Tuesday to give the Republican Party of Virginia another chance to get a nominee on the ballot in a House of Delegates race.

O’Bannon first made a motion to allow Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, on the ballot despite late and missing paperwork. When that failed, O’Bannon made a motion to allow the Republican Party to nominate someone else.

“We’ve already acted in affirmative action on a case-by-case basis after hearing the details on House District 1 and House District 76,” O’Bannon said, referring to the board’s recent decisions to allow Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott, and Chesapeake-area Democratic candidate Clint Jenkins on the ballot despite late nomination paperwork.

“The reason I’ve made my motion is because I’ve listened to and weighed our responsibility to allow political parties access to the ballot as opposed to the technicalities … of timelines,” he said. 

O’Bannon made it clear he wasn’t going to bat for Freitas because they share party affiliation: “It’s not the 30th district’s candidate’s most shining moment. I don’t think he’s helped his cause with the ad hominem attacks of members of this board. I think we all serve in good faith. We have a responsibility to put candidates on the ballot.”

Freitas missed the deadline to submit two key pieces of paperwork to get his name on the ballot in November. All 140 seats in the General Assembly are up for election.

Freitas never submitted paperwork establishing his qualification to be a candidate or a form from local party representatives saying he won a party contest to be a candidate. Kilgore and Jenkins were only missing the paperwork from local party officials confirming their nominations.

Freitas’ situation was different because he was also missing the qualification paperwork, elections Commissioner Chris Piper said at the meeting.

Republican officials from Freitas’ area submitted a new nomination form about a week ago, Piper said. But state code says a nominee can only be replaced after the paperwork deadline if someone withdraws, dies or under other extenuating circumstances. Because Freitas never technically made it on the ballot, the later nomination didn’t count either, Piper said.

“It is still the department’s position that because A: the candidate qualification form was not filed and B: the 511 was not filed that there was no (Republican) nominee for the 30th House District,” Piper said.

Bob Brink, a former Democratic delegate who served with O’Bannon, said allowing Freitas on the ballot while missing the candidate qualification form could potentially open up more than 40 single-candidate General Assembly races to a late opponent trying to get on the ballot.

“What we’re doing here is trying to strike a balance between the appropriate principle of access to the ballot and uphold deadlines that are in the code and promote uniformity and finality,” Brink said.

Freitas is still allowed to run a write-in campaign, which he has said he will undertake.

Jim Smith, chairman of the Madison County Republicans, told the board he was worried not letting Freitas on the ballot would disenfranchise voters. Freitas is very popular in the district, he said, and having to write him on to a ballot could cause problems. Freitas won the 2017 election with 62 percent of the district’s votes, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

“We have many who sadly have difficulty with language, speaking and writing,” he said. “It’s going to be a very, very difficult time with a write-in.”

Democrat Ann Ridgeway is also running in the district, which includes Orange, Culpeper and Madison counties.