Two-term Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, is running a write-in campaign for re-election.
Freitas, in a statement Friday, said he would not allow “Richmond bureaucrats” to decide who is the 30th House District’s delegate. That choice rests with the people, he said.
At its Tuesday meeting, the State Board of Elections rejected a GOP request to put the Republican candidate’s name on the November ballot after the Freitas campaign failed to properly submit several required documents to election officials in Richmond, missing two deadlines.
The board’s decision left Republicans with no nominee in Central Virginia’s 30th House District in a pivotal election year with control of the General Assembly at stake.
Retired educator Ann Ridgeway is the Democratic nominee in the 30th District race. Her name will appear on the ballot.
Comprised of two Democrats and one Republican, all appointed by Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, the Board of Elections blocked Freitas from the ballot “on a party-line vote,” the candidate said.
Freitas accused board members of partisan politics.
The three-member board’s sole Republican, former Del. John O’Bannon, made motions to allow Freitas or any other Republican on the ballot, but his motions failed due to a lack of a second by the Democratic members.
“Their decision to not allow any Republican on the ballot means they are attempting to disenfranchise Republicans in the 30th and denying all voters in the district a choice this November,” Freitas stated.
“There is no way to read this choice by Gov. Northam’s appointees as anything other than a partisan power grab at a time when control over the House of Delegates is up in the air,” he added. “Because of this decision by the Democrats currently in charge in Richmond, today I am officially announcing that I am mounting a write-in campaign as the Republican nominee in the 30th District.”
Freitas said “the conservative majority” in the 30th District, which spans Orange and Madison counties and part of Culpeper, “deserves an advocate fighting for them in the General Assembly.”
The candidate said he would not ask for any financial help from the state Republican Caucus for his write-in campaign so as to not divert dollars from key ballot races when the GOP majority is slight.
Freitas recently told a radio host that at the next candidate finance report filing deadline, he would have close to $500,000 in his campaign chest.
The late filings created a weeks-long crisis for Freitas, a libertarian-leaning former Green Beret who has served in the House since 2016 and is widely thought to have aspirations for higher office.
In an attempt to force election officials to let him on the ballot, Freitas withdrew his candidacy last month and was swiftly renominated by a local GOP committee. Republicans thought they could use a provision in state law that allows parties to replace nominees who withdraw or die, but the elections board didn’t accept that theory.
Freitas’ announcement came a day after a heated internal GOP debate over how to handle the situation spilled over onto social media.
Christian Heiens, a former Freitas legislative aide, took to Facebook on Thursday evening to accuse House GOP leaders of trying to scuttle a Freitas write-in campaign and pursue a lawsuit to get another Republican on the ballot.
In a response to the post, House Majority Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, indicated he wasn’t convinced the write-in campaign was the best option.
“Oh YOU must be the mastermind behind the scenes who would rather run a write-in campaign than try to get a Republican on the ballot in an otherwise safe district when control of the state government is at stake,” Gilbert said.
As recently as Thursday, Republicans in the district were circulating a list of possible candidates who could run instead of Freitas.
Republicans had brought in a D.C. law firm to work on the case in anticipation of a possible lawsuit, but Friday’s announcement appeared to make that prospect moot.
House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said in a statement that his caucus had explored all legal options, including trying to swap in a replacement candidate. After talking with members of the local GOP nominating committee, Cox said, “it’s clear to us that there is widespread support for Nick to run.”
“Nobody fights like Nick Freitas, and I fully expect him to win. He has our full support,” Cox said.
Freitas won his last election with 62% of the vote.
In a text message, Gilbert said Freitas still has strong support from his local nominating committee.
“We are fully on board with everything we can do to help him return to Richmond,” Gilbert said. “If anybody can do this, it is Nick Freitas.”
In an interview Friday morning with conservative radio host John Fredericks, Freitas said he was willing to step aside if it gave the party a better chance to win. He said the party decided a lawsuit, which could have dragged into September, wasn’t worth the risk with no guarantee of success.
Freitas said he had no excuses for the paperwork issues, and understands people are frustrated. He insisted the situation would only make him campaign harder.
“Honestly, all it’s done is made me mad,” Freitas said. “I’m not going to pretend that it’s an ideal situation. But we’re going to take a bad situation and make them wish they never did this.”
Democrats seem to be relishing the unforced error.
“Freitas’ flub will force Republicans to divert crucial time and money toward an impossible write in-campaign—diverting their limited resources from a dozen other vulnerable candidates,” said Matt Harringer, a spokesman for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. “His incompetence is going to cost Republicans this seat and the House.”
In next week’s Culpeper Star-Exponent, read more about 30th District campaign finance, the logistics of a write-in campaign, and more about this area’s contested House of Delegates race.
Culpeper Star-Exponent staff writer Allison Brophy Champion and Richmond Times-Dispatch staff writer Graham Moomaw contributed to this report.