Virginia Republicans Bob Good and Nick Freitas will be allowed to appear on the 2020 ballots in two battleground House races despite missing deadlines to file state-required paperwork.
The state Board of Elections in a 2-1 vote Tuesday granted a blanket extension to all candidates who missed the June 9 filing deadline.
The extension will also apply to eight other House candidates who missed the deadline, along with two candidates for local elections.
Good and Freitas’ missing paperwork had attracted the most attention because they are running in targeted districts. Good, a former athletics director at Liberty University, won the GOP nomination in the sprawling 5th District at a convention in June, ousting Rep. Denver Riggleman.
The extension, which pushes the filing deadline to July 17, also leaves open the possibility that Riggleman will attempt to run as a third-party candidate.
He and his supporters have said that Good took advantage of the pandemic to limit the number of delegates and to skew the results in Good’s favor. Jimmy Keady, a campaign representative, said Tuesday Riggleman would not comment on the extension.
Freitas, a state House Delegate, is running in a July 18 convention in the 7th District to challenge Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who became a symbol of the 2018 blue wave when she beat tea party superstar Dave Brat.
Both Freitas and Good asked for lenience from the board because they had assumed the filing deadline would be changed after their convention dates and other election deadlines were moved to protect voters during the coronavirus pandemic. Freitas missed a similar deadline during his 2019 state legislative campaign and was forced to run as a write-in candidate.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm for House Democrats, along with several members of the public and former board member Clara Belle Wheeler, argued that the coronavirus was not a good excuse for missing the deadline, which was clearly communicated on the Board of Elections website. They said the deadline serves an important role in legitimizing elections by informing voters who they will see on the ballot.
“They were negligent,” said attorney Aria Branch, who appeared on behalf of the DCCC. “This is a failure on their part to follow the rules.”
The extension passed with yes votes from Board Chairman Robert H. Brink, a Democrat, and Vice Chairman John O’Bannon, a Republican. Secretary Jamilah LaCruise, a Democrat, voted against it.
Brink said he approved the measure “reluctantly.”
”This is not just checking a bureaucratic box,” he said. “There are sound reasons for requiring the forms, and for doing so by a deadline.” But he said denying candidates who had won their party’s nomination the right to appear on the ballot would be “draconian” and undemocratic.
“I don’t want to be in the position of picking winners and losers,” he said.
He said the number of candidates who had missed the deadline, and similar examples in past elections, showed that the system wasn’t working and the board should seek guidance from the state legislature on how to make the process easier for candidates.