BY JOHN-HENRY DOUCETTE
The state elections board wants more information about circumstances that led to Jeff Staples, an independent candidate seeking office in the 81st House District, filing campaign paperwork with the registrar in Chesapeake rather than the Virginia Department of Elections.
Staples mistakenly filed a statement of economic interest that should have gone to the state with the local registrar in Chesapeake. Staples did this after Mary Lynn Pinkerman, the general registrar in Chesapeake, advised him to do so, according to Staples’ appeal and email correspondence reviewed by The Independent News.
The paperwork error means, as of now, Staples has not qualified for the general election ballot. He would face state Del. Barry Knight, the Republican incumbent, and challenger Jeffrey Feld, a Democrat, in the 81st District if he is allowed to appear on the ballot.
The Independent News first reported the issue on Friday, June 11, and Staples learned he had not made the ballot from the newspaper. The 81st District includes much of the newspaper’s main coverage area, including Sandbridge and rural communities in southern Virginia Beach. Staples unsuccessfully challenged Knight in the district during the 2015 election.
Staples on Tuesday, June 15, appealed for an extension of the filing deadline to make this year’s ballot. In the appeal, he recounted a discussion with Pinkerman: “I have run for office three times before and I thought I knew the procedure, so I said, ‘I thought that went to Richmond.’ She replied that I should turn it in to her office.”
An email conversation followed.
“I have the statement of economic interest filled out and ready to deliver to you,” Staples wrote to Pinkerman on Wednesday, June 2. “Do I also need to send a copy to Richmond?”
“No,” Pinkerman replied via email that same day, “it just comes here.”
A decision in the matter may be made by the board by the end of June, among other requests for extensions of filing deadlines from candidates around the commonwealth.
Audio was not ideal for the Tuesday, June 22, board meeting in Richmond, which The Independent News viewed using distance technology, but board Chairperson Robert Brink appeared to ask specifically about an incident in which a local registrar gave the green light to a candidate to file the way they did.
“The board chose to delay consideration of candidate extensions until a future meeting so they could gather some information about what happened in Chesapeake,” Andrea Gaines, a spokesperson for the state elections department, wrote in a Tuesday, June 22, email to The Independent News. “The board plans to meet again on or before June 30.”
“I’m kind of sorry it didn’t get taken care of today,” Staples said when reached by phone following the Tuesday, June 22, board meeting. “But I am happy they are looking into it.”
Staples said he hopes the fact that the board is seeking additional details means he may be granted an extension and qualify for the ballot.
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