August 8, 2018 News

Virginian-Pilot Ed Board: Voters deserve better in 2nd District


by Virginian-Pilot

KEY POINT: Making a bad situation worse, a number of the signatures gathered by Taylor campaign workers and other supporters on behalf of Brown appear to be fraudulent. Without a doubt, R. Stuart Cake did not sign the petition, because he died two months before June 9, the date given beside his name.

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If signatures were forged on an election petition, it’s against the law. That’s why the appointment of the special prosecutor — longtime Roanoke Commonwealth’s Attorney Donald Caldwell — is necessary to sort out what happened, and who is responsible.

Voters derserve better in 2nd District

The Virginian-Pilot Editorial Board

THE RACE for Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District seat took a serious legal turn on Tuesday when a special prosecutor was named to investigate possible forgery and violations of election law.

The move adds even more intrigue to a strange tale of political scheming that involves U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor’s campaign staff and its help in getting one of his opponents placed on the November ballot.

Start with this fact: A man who died in April is among the “voters” who supposedly signed a petition in June to enable Shaun Brown to be on the ballot as an independent candidate — even though she is facing federal corruption charges and has virtually no chance of winning.

Brown barely qualified to run, and might not have done so without the generous support of Taylor’s campaign team. At least four paid staffers collected signatures for her at the last minute.

Taylor insists that the unusual support from his campaign was not aimed at splitting the Democratic vote between Brown, who ran as a Democrat against Taylor in 2016, and this year’s Democratic candidate, Elaine Luria. Taylor says that the paid help — from people he prefers to call “volunteers” — had no other motive for their efforts than ensuring fundamental fairness in the democratic process.

“They wanted to volunteer to get Shaun on the ballot, and that’s cool, man,” Taylor said. “That’s democracy.”

The notion that his campaign supporters would, on their own, rescue a struggling opponent in an unselfish defense of democracy does more than strain credulity. The fact that they were subsequently paid by the Taylor campaign provides a better clue as to their motives.

Making a bad situation worse, a number of the signatures gathered by Taylor campaign workers and other supporters on behalf of Brown appear to be fraudulent. Without a doubt, R. Stuart Cake did not sign the petition, because he died two months before June 9, the date given beside his name.

His widow, Elizabeth, spoke on WHRV’s “HearSay with Cathy Lewis” radio show on Monday and called the use of his name “hurtful” and “disappointing.”

Eileen Eady said she didn’t sign the petition either, though her name was listed three lines below Cake’s. Eady moved to Nevada, registered to vote there in 2014, and recently ran for the local school board.

As the names on the petition are scrutinized, the number of questionable signatures continues to grow. Virginia Beach resident Tony Flores said he knows at least six people, including himself and his parents, who are listed but did not sign the petition.

If signatures were forged on an election petition, it’s against the law. That’s why the appointment of the special prosecutor — longtime Roanoke Commonwealth’s Attorney Donald Caldwell — is necessary to sort out what happened, and who is responsible.

Taylor initially said his campaign staff did nothing wrong, and he dismissed concerns about possible fraudulent signatures. He has since said that his campaign has zero tolerance for inappropriate activities and that it will cooperate with the investigation.

But Taylor’s campaign should never have gotten involved in helping to place Brown on the ballot, which was an underhanded move to hurt Luria and tilt the election more in the Republican’s favor. And once Brown learned of the Taylor campaign’s involvement, she should have realized that she was part of a crass ploy to undercut a rival and distanced herself from the lists immediately.

Maybe both sides thought no one would ever find out, but this is a good example of why so many people are disillusioned with politics today. And if all these allegations are proven, the shame of them will be that they further alienate an already disillusioned public from the government.

The truth is, Americans have a right to expect more from their elected officials and from those who hope to represent them in public office. And, as the facts stand, the people of the 2nd Congressional District can be forgiven if they feel they’ve been let down.

 

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