A special prosecutor was appointed Tuesday to investigate allegations that aides to Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Va., forged signatures on petitions to help get an independent candidate on the ballot, in an effort to boost Taylor’s chances over his Democratic challenger in the midterm election.
Four Taylor campaign staffers helped gather signatures for former Democratic candidate Shaun Brown to get on the November ballot for Virginia’s 2nd congressional district. Elaine Luria is the Democratic nominee, but the Taylor campaign could benefit from Brown being on the ballot as an independent, potentially drawing votes away from Luria. Shaun Brown told Virginia news outlet WHRO that she had no knowledge of the effort by Scott staff to collect signatures for her campaign.
“There is a pending investigation regarding potential violations of the Code of Virginia, including violations of election laws and forgery,” wrote Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle, in his request for a special prosecutor. Circuit Court Judge Glenn Croshaw appointed Roanoke Commonwealth’s Attorney Donald Caldwell as a special prosecutor in the case.
Taylor had previously cut ties with his campaign manager for different reasons, but the investigation prompted him to also fire his campaign consultant. The payments made to four campaign staffers in the days leading up to the petition deadline were described as “payroll” or “campaign consulting — staff” in Federal Election Commission records. The names and dates match those on the petitions filed to get Brown on the ballot.
“My campaign has a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate activities,” Taylor wrote in a statement Tuesday. He said that his campaign will cooperate fully with the investigation, but said the “irregularities” on Brown’s petitions should have no bearing on the independent candidate’s right to be on the ballot.
Taylor alleges that the Democratic party has engaged in “a systematic effort to disenfranchise 2nd District voters by marginalizing a qualified African-American candidate” from being on the ballot.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Virginia Democratic party sent out email blasts focused on the forgery allegations and investigation Tuesday.
“VA-02 voters deserve to know if Congressman Taylor’s paid staff violated the law and if all candidates received the required number of signatures to make the ballot this November. We look forward to seeing the results of Commonwealth’s Attorney Caldwell’s investigation into this matter,” said the Virginia Democratic Party Communications Director Jake Rubenstein in a statement.
Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales/Roll Call rates the race as Likely Republican, but while the district voted for President Trump by about four points, it also backed Democrat Ralph Northam for governor over the Republican candidate in 2017. Taylor is the only freshman and the only Virginian on the House Appropriations committee.
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