Del. Nick Freitas, R-Culpeper, intends to handily win a write-in campaign for reelection. Along the way, he expects to help other Republicans in the House of Delegates retain or win their seats.
“The voters know exactly what’s at stake if we lose: Democrats take control of the government in Virginia,” said Freitas’ campaign manager Joe Desilets, a Republican consultant who worked on the Donald Trump presidential campaign, in a phone call Monday. “And the voters know the legislation that will go along with that—partial birth abortion and restrictions on gun ownership in Virginia.”
The campaign manager declined to disclose specific strategies for getting Freitas reelected with write-in votes, the only means available for sending him back to Richmond following the incumbent’s well-publicized, missed paperwork deadlines.
“We just know this is a conservative district by nature,” Desilets said. “He won 62 percent in 2017, so our goal is making sure Nick’s supporters get out to the polls on Election Day and know the process for write-in votes. Nick is the GOP nominee, so to vote for him, you fill in the bubble for write-in.”
Voters choosing Freitas will blacken the oval next to the ballot option for “write-in” and then use an ink pen to write “Nick Freitas” on the line so that the vote can be read and counted by the voting machine, he said.
Desilets added the campaign would likely recruit volunteers to work on Election Day at each of the 30 voting locations in District 30, which spans all of Madison and Orange counties and part of Culpeper, including the town. “As much as possible, absolutely,” he said, calling the volunteer effort a standard Election Day operation.
Desilets said it had not yet been decided how the campaign would inform people at the polls of the correct spelling of the candidate’s name, possibly printed bracelets.
“This is going to be no different than a regular campaign in terms of ads and direct mail, door to door, all of those things will happen,” he said. Just the actual write-in process “will have a slightly different twist,” he added, saying it would be about educating voters on the correct procedure and making sure they know the write-in format.
Desilets said it would cost around $150,000 to run the write-in campaign, about twice as much as Freitas has ever spent on getting elected. However, he said, when the Freitas campaign releases its next campaign finance report in September, it will show closer to $550,000 has been raised in July and August.
Desilets said the Freitas campaign planned to donate “at least six figures” to other Republican General Assembly races. The incumbent delegate from Culpeper, a former Green Beret, significantly raised his profile in his primary bid last year for the U.S. Senate seat against Tim Kaine, the campaign manager said. A March 2018 video of Freitas discussing gun rights on the House floor in Richmond went viral, which also boosted the candidate’s profile.
All this has contributed to Freitas’ ability to raise “big money” and in turn help out his Republican colleagues, Desilets said.
“This whole situation kind of woke him up and strengthened his resolve to do everything he can to not just win his own reelection campaign but also to help other Republicans across the commonwealth any way we can,” he said.
In March, California produce tycoon Chris Rufer, a regular supporter of Libertarian candidates, donated $15,000 to the Freitas campaign.
On Saturday, Freitas held a campaign fundraiser event at Belmont Farms, the moonshine distillery of Chuck and Jeannette Miller in Culpeper County. The candidate rode a mechanical bill, and attendees took shots to get him wet in a “Dunk the Delegate” dunk tank. Earlier on Saturday, he posted on Facebook about his write-in campaign.
“Can you actually win a write-in in the 30th District? Let me give you some facts. Two years ago when I was running for reelection I had a Democratic opponent who was able to campaign full time, outspent us two to one and it was a Democrat wave year election and we won with 62 percent of the vote in the 30th District because it’s going to be the people who decide this election,” he said.
“It’s about maintaining control of the House of Delegates so that the radical leftist agenda we saw on display last year doesn’t get passed. I have no doubt with your help, we will win.”
Culpeper County Voters’ Registrar James Clements said his office is preparing for a large number of votes to be cast in the 30th District race as well as a countywide write-in race for the Culpeper Soil & Water Conservation District —since there is only one name on the ballot for two seats.
Asked about spelling discrepancies with write-in votes, Clements said state code governs the local electoral board, which instructs, “Any ballot marked so that the intent of the voter is clear shall be counted.”
“We are preparing for a busy fall with 17 different ballot styles in use in the county and we’re respectful that each race on them is important to the candidates and voters,” he said.
Trained election officers will be at each polling site on Election Day to answer questions and assist anyone who requests it, Clements added. Election Night results will include an unofficial tally of the total number of write-in votes cast in each race, but not votes for individual candidates, he said.
Clements said he expected it would take several days after the election to certify the results and declare the official winner as part of the electoral board’s canvass.
“As part of their canvass, our local electoral board—with assistance from a bipartisan group of election officers—will examine the write-in tapes and tally the votes,” he said.
Clements anticipated some additional supply costs, but they would not be extreme or out of the ordinary. “Protecting the rights of the voter and preserving the integrity of the election is paramount,” he said.