Independent candidate Shaun Brown, who is running for the 2nd Congressional District that covers Virginia Beach, said she and her staff members collected about 1,800 signatures to put her name on the ballot for November’s General Election. Only 1,000 certified names are required by the state.
She said she and her staff drove up to Richmond and delivered the petitions in person to State Elections officials.
Brown has been in the news after it was disclosed that four campaign workers for incumbent 2nd District Congressman, Scott Taylor, a Republican, collected signatures on petitions for Brown.
Democrats are claiming that Scott’s staffers helped put Brown on the ballot by collecting 550 signatures.
The work of the four staffers, according to documents from the State Elections Department, was unearthed by a Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) request by the National Public Radio (NPR) outlet WHRV.
According to the Department of Elections, the four staff members were paid $1200 and collected 550 signatures for Brown, the weekend before the June 12 primary election.
Brown said she had dropped out of the race for the party nomination in March, after the State Democratic operation threw its weight behind Elaine Luria, a Norfolk businesswoman.
Brown told the GUIDE earlier this week that she then decided to secure a place on the November 6 ballot for the 2nd District race, as an Independent. According to state law, she did not have to be on the June 12 primary ballot. But if she collected the required 1,000 by 7 p.m. on June 12, the day of the primary election, she could get on the ballot for November.
Brown said that she and her staff members working the polls around the district collected about 1,800 signatures, which includes Newport and Hampton, as people stood in line to vote in the primary on June 12.
She said she and her staff drove up to Richmond and delivered the petitions in person to State election officials. Brown said she did not know the Taylor staffers had collected signatures for her campaign.
State election officials said once they reached the 1,000 signature threshold, they ceased counting and certified her for the upcoming election.
Scott Weldon, a spokesman for the Taylor operation, admitted to the media that Congressman Taylor knew that the staffers were collecting signatures and were being paid for the work.
Brown agrees with Democrats and political analysts that the scheme was designed to weaken the opposition vote against Taylor.
Brown is African American and lost to Taylor in 2016.
As an Independent, her candidacy could siphon Democrats from Luria. Brown said that many Black voters who normally back a Democrat in that district would be tempted to vote for her, weakening Luria’s chances against Scott, the Republican candidate.
Brown said she was told about the Taylor campaign efforts while she was standing trial for allegedly defrauding the USDA’s nutrition program for the poor in 2012. She was indicted last December.
On August 2, a mistrial was declared because the jury was deadlocked and could not reach a guilty or non-guilty verdict on Brown.
On August 7, Virginia Beach Commonwealth Attorney Colin Stolle requested a special prosecutor be appointed to investigate the petitions and the court agreed. Roanoke’s Commonwealth’s Attorney, Donald Caldwell has been named as the special prosecutor.
Stolle is asking that the investigation look into potential violations of election law, as well as forgery. Republican State Delegate Del. Glenn Davis, of Virginia Beach, said his name was on the petitions misspelled and with the wrong address.
The 2nd Congressional District is a Republican stronghold and includes most of Virginia Beach, a small slither of Norfolk, parts of Newport News, Hampton, Williamsburg and the Eastern Shore.
The district did elect Democrat Glenn Nye during the Obama wave in 2008. But in 2010, Taylor reclaimed the district for Republicans, due in part to political hostility toward Obama, and the drawing of the district by state Republicans to assure it would be more White and Republican.
In a statement to the media, Taylor’s press operation said his staff’s effort were designed to make up for the state Democratic Party’s casting aside Brown earlier this year for Luria to run for the House and his operation was seeking to right a wrong.
Luria’s campaign said Taylor was afraid to run head to head against Luria.
In another twist of the story, Taylor staffers seemingly collected signatures of people who were ineligible, including one man who died in April. His wife, during an interview with Cathy Lewis on her WHRV talk show “Hearsay” said his signature was on a petition dated June 9, 2018.
Nationally, Democrats are hoping because of the enthusiasm of party activists and the unpopularity of President Trump, they may be able to flip enough
seats to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide