This story has been updated
The Virginia Democratic Party has reversed course and certified a challenger to Rep. James P. Moran Jr. for the June 12 primary ballot , after initially saying the candidate had failed to submit enough signatures.
Bruce Shuttleworth, a businessman and Navy veteran, was told last week that he failed to make the ballot, as the Democratic 8th Congressional District Committee informed him that he had not filed 1,000 valid signatures. Shuttleworth then filed suit against state party officials in federal court, and had been scheduled to hold a press conference about the lawsuit Tuesday in Alexandria.
Though the exact circumstances of the reversal are unclear, Shuttleworth’s name now will appear on the ballot after all.
“The Democratic party has certified his name, so they’ve instructed the state board [of elections] his name should be on the ballot for the primary,” said Justin Riemer, deputy secretary of the State Board of Elections.
As of Monday evening Shuttleworth had not yet withdrawn his lawsuit.
“We’re still waiting for official word from the state board of elections. but the information we had from our lawyers in Richmond is that we would be on the ballot,” said Shuttleworth aide Glen McCormick
Shuttleworth’s campaign submitted a total of 1,823 signatures, and in his lawsuit he contended that party officials “erroneously and unlawfully invalidated over 800 signatures, including many valid signatures of registered voters” in the 8th district, which includes the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church, as well as Arlington County and part of Fairfax County.
Moran’s district is safely Democratic and he would also be considered
a heavy favorite in a primary against Shuttleworth, a first-time candidate. But the timing of Shuttleworth’s rejection from the ballot was noteworthy because it came within days after the Campaign for Primary Accountability, a group seeking to boost primary challenges to incumbents in both parties, announced that it was targeting Moran.
Shuttleworth’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, names as defendants Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Brian Moran, the congressman’s brother, as well as Margo Horner, the 8th District Committee chairwoman who informed Shuttleworth that he hadn’t made the ballot. A handful of other officials were also named in the suit. (Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post mistakenly characterized Brian Moran and Margo Horner as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.)
The Virginia Democratic Party declined to comment on the suit. Horner did not respond to requests for comment.
Shuttleworth said in the lawsuit that, after submitting his signatures on March 29, he was informed by Horner that he had not made the ballot via a voicemail on the afternoon of April 2. Minutes later, he contends, Horner certified Moran as the only candidate for the ballot, giving Shuttleworth almost no time to respond or find out why he had been rejected.
State law requires congressional candidates to submit the signatures of at least 1,000 qualified voters from the district in which they are running. The law also requires the people who circulate petitions to be qualified voters in the district themselves, though that requirement is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit alleging that it is unconstitutional.
Because of that rule, signatures obtained by Shuttleworth’s campaign manager, a Maryland resident, were not considered valid. Shuttleworth also contended that signatures rejected for a variety of other reasons should have been counted.