Photo © Gage Skidmore

Virginia’s Board of Elections has upheld an elections department ruling that Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) did not qualify for the ballot this fall. 

The ruling is the latest in a messy saga that has put a once safely-Republican seat in play for Democrats and their nominee, Ann Ridgeway.

Freitas’ issues began when the state elections department said that it did not receive his paperwork in time for him to qualify for the ballot; Freitas’ local Republican legislative committee never submitted a form stating that he was the Republican nominee and Freitas himself also failed to file a required form.

As a result of his errors, Freitas faced potential disqualification from the ballot by the State Board of Elections. He opted to withdraw from the race instead, allowing Republicans the chance to take advantage of a measure in Virginia state law that allows parties to replace a nominee who withdraws or dies. 

They chose to renominate Freitas, in a move that was viewed by some as an attempt to circumvent state law.

State election officials rejected Freitas’ renomination and said that since Freitas failed to file his paperwork on time and never technically made it on the ballot as the Republican nominee, the party couldn’t replace him. 

Prior to the Board of Elections meeting on Tuesday, Freitas criticized its members, alleging that the Democrats of the Board were trying “to steal an election that they know they can’t win at the ballot box.” 

While the Board’s lone Republican member, John O’Bannon, attempted to give Republicans the chance to nominate Freitas or another candidate on Tuesday, the Virginia Mercury reports that he also called out Freitas for hurting his own case. “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,” O’Bannon said.

O’Bannon was out-ruled by the Democratic members of the Board, meaning Freitas is slated to be left off the November ballot. 

Freitas now has two options; he can file a lawsuit challenging the board’s ruling, or mount a costly and challenging write-in campaign.

Freitas indicated he will do the latter in an attempt to hold onto his seat. He’ll have to defeat Democrat Ann Ridgeway to do so. 

When asked if she thought Freitas should be allowed on the ballot, Ridgeway said that she didn’t have an opinion either way and was fully focused on running her own campaign. “It’s not my job, my job is to run for office.”

Ridgeway, a former teacher and advocate, said she is focused on improving rural schools, increasing pay for teachers and support staff, lowering prescription drug costs, and expanding access to mental health care and rural broadband in her district. 

Should Ridgeway win Freitas’ seat, it would be a huge boost for Democrats in their quest to win control of the House of Delegates, where Republicans currently hold a 51-48 edge.

Photo © Gage Skidmore