The Virginia Democratic Party filed a lawsuit on Monday to block an independent candidate from appearing on the ballot in a congressional race.
The challenge comes amid an investigation by a special prosecutor into signatures that appear to be forged collected on behalf of Shaun Brown, a Democrat turned independent running in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District.
Campaign staff for Rep. Scott Taylor, the Republican who holds the seat, helped collect those signatures on Brown’s behalf. Brown’s appearance on the ballot could benefit Taylor by taking away votes from Elaine Luria, the Democrat in the race.
The lawsuit, filed in state court, asks a judge to prevent the state from printing ballots with Brown’s name on them until the investigation is complete. The party also wants the court to require the election board to strike the forged signatures from Brown’s qualifying petitions and disqualify her from appearing on the ballot. Democrats said in the filing they had collected affidavits from 35 people who said their signatures were forged ― enough to bring Brown below the 1,000-signature threshold to get on the ballot.
James Ellenson, Brown’s attorney, said in an interview that the signatures with issues had come from those collected by Taylor’s staff. He said Brown had turned in about 2,500 signatures to qualify for the ballot and said he believed she still had more than the 1,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. (Democrats say over 1,600 signatures appear to be invalid.) He accused Democrats of trying to bully Brown off the ballot and said the campaign was weighing filing a countersuit.
“Of course when you gather a couple thousand signatures there’s gonna be some that are problematic,” he said. “It seems like they’re just really trying to stifle her voice.”
Taylor’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement to WAVY-TV, Scott Weldon, a Taylor spokesman, accused Democrats of trying to keep Brown off the ballot.
Among the questionable signatures Taylor’s staff turned in is one of a dead local activist and another of a woman who moved to Nevada a few years ago.
Luria said in a statement Monday that the congressman should take responsibility and explain what happened.
When the signature irregularities first emerged, Taylor noted he had parted ways with two campaign staffers, including his campaign manager. Taylor withdrew from a scheduled debate on Monday because he was unhappy with the way the radio station sponsoring it had covered the signature controversy, The Virginian-Pilot reported.