ORANGE — Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, is in the midst of a re-election campaign in Virginia’s 30th House District, but it turns out the two-term state delegate’s name is not certified to appear on the ballot Nov. 5.
Culpeper County’s general registrar and director of elections, James Clements, made the discovery Wednesday. He said he received confirmation Thursday from Matthew Abell, the state’s election administrator, that Freitas’ certification paperwork was not on file.
Clements said he was making sure all candidates for Culpeper County elections, “from the school board on up,” appeared on a list generated by the Virginia Department of Elections. It was while going over this list that he noticed Freitas’ name was missing. The 30th District covers all of Orange and Madison counties and part of Culpeper County.
Elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2017, Freitas said via email Friday evening that the snafu came about because the chair of the 30th District Republican Committee— Bruce Kay of Locust Grove—apparently “sent the forms to the email address of the individual whom he sent them to two years ago, but no longer works there.”
Freitas confirmed that he is running for re-election and expressed confidence his candidacy will be certified.
The State Board of Elections met Friday, and the “determination of candidate qualifications” was listed on the agenda posted on the board’s webpage. When contacted about Freitas, Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Christopher Piper responded that the board deferred the Freitas matter to a later date that has not been set.
The question as to whether his name will be on the ballot caught Freitas and his campaign off guard.
On Friday, Kay initially thought everything had gone through. He said he emailed certification paperwork on May 7, in advance of a June 11 filing deadline, to Paul Stenbjorn at the Virginia elections department but had not received confirmation of its receipt. A search for Stenbjorn on the department website indicates, as Freitas suggested, that he no longer is employed there.
Complicating the situation, Kay said Friday that he discovered his computer files are “corrupt” and that he has lost “a couple of years’ worth” of emails, including documents related to the election and personal correspondence.
Terry Anderson, chairman of the 30th District Democratic Committee, was responsible for filing paperwork for the Democratic challenger. He said he got confirmation by phone and email that the state elections office received the required certification forms for Ann Ridgeway, a political newcomer.
Regarding the Freitas campaign’s apparent failure to make sure all the forms were properly filed, Anderson said, “I have to say that that’s just a complete rookie mistake. It happens now and then, but anybody involved in politics knows that there is a process. There are rules set by the state. You have to go through and make sure that you comply with the rules.”
It is not clear how things will play out for Freitas, whose situation is similar to that of Terry Kilgore, a Republican who represents the 1st House District. After learning last week that the state elections office had not received his certification paperwork, Kilgore protested to the state Board of Elections, which decided on Friday to allow Kilgore to be listed on the ballot.
In the meantime, Ridgeway is proceeding with caution. In a formal statement, she said, “Though I am still unsure of the exact circumstances of this situation, it is of course my understanding that all forms must be filed by the various deadlines to have a candidate’s name on the November 5th ballot.”
On his third day on the job, Ridgeway’s campaign manager, David Birkenthal, was dealing with the surprising development.
“These are election laws,” he said. “Just because you’re a delegate doesn’t mean you get to go above them.”