RICHMOND — The independent candidate seeking to run in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District race this fall has asked the state Supreme Court to overturn a judge’s ruling that her name must be removed from the ballot because of forged signatures.
A lawyer for Shaun Brown filed an appeal Monday, claiming that a Circuit Court judge had no jurisdiction to remove Brown from the ballot after she had been certified by the State Board of Elections.
Brown is seeking to challenge Rep. Scott Taylor (R) and his Democratic opponent, Elaine Luria, for the Hampton Roads-area congressional seat.
Taylor’s campaign staff took the unusual step of gathering signatures to help Brown qualify for the ballot before a deadline in June. Last week, Richmond Circuit Judge Gregory L. Rupe found that signatures collected by Taylor’s staff were riddled with forgeries and “out and out fraud.”
In the civil suit brought by the Democratic Party of Virginia, the judge also found that Brown’s petitions violated state law by containing three separate and incorrect addresses for the candidate.
Five staffers paid by the Taylor campaign invoked their Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate themselves to avoid answering questions about whether they knowingly submitted false signatures. Some also pleaded the Fifth to avoid answering whether the congressman orchestrated the signature-gathering effort.
A special prosecutor is conducting a criminal investigation to see whether any campaign laws were violated by Taylor’s staffers.
Democrats charged that Taylor was trying to siphon votes away from Luria, a retired Navy commander, by helping former Democratic candidate Brown get onto the ballot as an independent.
Brown’s lawyer argues that because the State Board of Elections had already validated more than the required 1,000 signatures for the candidate to get on the ballot, the judge had no place ordering her name removed.
“The circuit court lacked statutory or constitutional authority to compel the agencies to reach a different result in the exercise of their discretionary authority,” Charles Haden, a lawyer for Brown, wrote in the appeal.
Democrats brushed off the appeal. “The Court found that the scheme to put a third-party candidate on the ballot relied on ‘fraud, perjury and forgery’ by Scott Taylor staffers who plead the Fifth when subpoenaed to testify,” lawyer Marc Elias said via email. “We have confidence that the State Supreme Court will condemn these efforts and affirm the decision.”