RICHMOND — A Republican seeking the nomination to challenge Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) sued the Virginia GOP and the state board of elections Tuesday, arguing he was unfairly excluded from the ballot by party officials who favored another candidate.
First-time candidate Ivan Raiklin filed a lawsuit in federal court in Richmond, asking the court to temporarily block the state from printing or sending absentee ballots without his name on them. In-person absentee voting began April 27.
The party determined Corey A. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of Supervisors; Nick Freitas, a two-term delegate from Culpeper; and Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson had enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
John Findlay, executive director of the party, and Chris Piper, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections, are listed as defendants.
Raiklin, who said he was previously certified to practice law in New York but not Virginia, is representing himself.
The lawsuit centers on the procedure the party uses to check the credibility of signatures candidates must collect to qualify for the ballot. Senate candidates had to collect 10,000 signatures — including at least 400 from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts. Raiklin contends that Findlay undermined his campaign’s right to a fair count — either out of incompetence or favoritism toward Freitas, he told reporters outside the courthouse.
Whatever the reason, he said, that made it impossible for the campaign to collect additional signatures before the March 29 deadline.
“The 12,691 petitioners that submitted their signatures to place me and my team on the ballot, they have a right — I think — they have a right for their voices to be heard,” he said.
Findlay said the claim was without merit.
“There was no favoritism in the Party’s process and the only incompetence on display was by Ivan and his campaign,” Findlay said in an email Wednesday. “If Mr. Raiklin wants to blame someone for his failure to make the ballot I recommend he look in a mirror.”
Virginia GOP Chairman John Whitbeck directed questions to party spokesman John “B.T.” March.
The party “certified all candidates who qualified after the review of petition signatures required by the Code of Virginia,” March said.
Through Elections Department spokeswoman Andrea Gaines, Piper declined to comment on the pending litigation.
According to Raiklin’s account, on March 28, Findlay “stated he was not comfortable with how the check was going” and wanted to delay it until the next day. The suit argues that Findlay “attempted to, and did, intimidate, threaten, [and] coerce the Raiklin campaign staff.” Findlay entered the room where the count was being conducted, “looked paranoid,” asked what was going on and said he would shut down the count until 9 a.m. the following day.
According to Raiklin, Findlay threatened to discontinue a “pre-check” service the party provides to candidates. Without a “pre-check,” signatures would be sent directly to the Virginia elections board, where they could be susceptible to a challenge from another candidate seeking to remove competition from the ballot.
Raiklin sent a flurry of urgent text messages to Whitbeck on the evening of March 28 but was unsuccessful in his effort to keep the count going.
Instead they discontinued the count until 9 a.m. on March 29. At that time, the party found Raiklin did not have enough signatures from the 9th District. By the time that determination was made, it was too late for his campaign to collect more signatures before the 5 p.m. deadline.
Raiklin argues that if Findlay had allowed the count to continue March 28, the error would have been discovered earlier, and his team could have collected enough additional signatures in time to qualify for the ballot.
A week later, Raiklin discovered the party also was using an outdated database to verify signatures.
At 9:14 p.m. on March 29, according to Raiklin, Whitbeck said Raiklin’s response to being ejected from the race would determine his future in the party, and urged him to immediately pledge his support to Freitas.
March, the party spokesman, said “no such conversation happened.” He also said that Raiklin had asked the party to “grant him a special exception to get on the ballot because he believed he was the only one who could defeat Tim Kaine. His request was denied.”
Raiklin was born and raised in New York by parents who fled the Soviet Union in the mid-1970s. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Russian, Spanish and Russian and East European Studies from the University of Northern Iowa and a law degree from Touro Law Center on Long Island.
He joined the National Guard in 1997 while an undergraduate and served in the infantry, and later as a diplomatic attache to Georgia. As a Green Beret, he was deployed to El Salvador, Jordan and Afghanistan, and recently provided aid to victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas.
Raiklin resigned from the Defense Intelligence Agency, based out of Quantico, Va., to run for Senate. He launched his campaign with a 1,776-mile run, logging 22 miles a day — one for each veteran who commits suicide a day.
He is also a start-up investor and adviser to early-stage tech companies.
He has lived on and off in Virginia since 2004, and currently lives in Alexandria with his wife of 20 years and their two sons.