PORTSMOUTH, VA., OCT. 26 -- A Circuit Court judge refused today to block a Dec. 15 recall election for two-term Mayor James W. Holley III, who has been accused of sending hate mail to community leaders.

Holley's attorneys had asked retired Roanoke judge Ernest Ballou to issue an injunction delaying the election until the Virginia Supreme Court could hear their appeal challenging the legality of the election.

However, Ballou ruled that in accordance with state law any circuit court challenges to a Sept. 9 court order setting the special election should have been filed by Sept. 30.

Holley, who is Portsmouth's first black mayor, became the target of a recall effort after Commonwealth's Attorney Johnny Morrison revealed in July that Holley's fingerprints had been found on several pieces of hate mail that were sent to black leaders who had criticized him during a controversy involving I.C. Norcom High School.

Holley has denied any wrongdoing, and has refused to resign.

The recall election was ordered by Circuit Judge William Oast Jr. after 9,171 Portsmouth residents signed petitions seeking Holley's ouster. Oast decided he should not decide the injunction request, so Ballou was brought in to hear the case.