Reporter's notebook

Something Else About That Forged Signature Scandal In VA-02

UNITED STATES - JULY 25: Reps. Scott Taylor, R-Va., left, and Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., House Appropriations Committee markup of the FY 2019 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill in Rayburn Building on July 25, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 25: Reps. Scott Taylor, R-Va., left, and Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., attend a House Appropriations Committee markup of the FY 2019 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill in Rayburn Building on July 2... UNITED STATES - JULY 25: Reps. Scott Taylor, R-Va., left, and Steven Palazzo, R-Miss., attend a House Appropriations Committee markup of the FY 2019 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill in Rayburn Building on July 25, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) MORE LESS
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August 22, 2018 6:02 p.m.

Earlier today I published a report on the ballot qualification signature scandal currently shaking up the VA-02 congressional race.

In short, incumbent Republican Rep. Scott Taylor’s campaign staffers are alleged to have forged dozens of signatures (and counting) on petitions to get an independent candidate on the ballot, an apparent effort to boost Taylor by splitting the Democratic vote between two candidates.

(The independent candidate is Shaun Brown, the Democrats’ 2016 nominee and, more recently, an outspoken critic of the state Democratic Party.)

I think this story should be a much bigger deal than it is. If you live in this district, or are have information about the story, please contact me. The DCCC put out a 90-second web ad on the scandal today, shortly after we published.

One thing we left on the cutting room floor: Why was a special prosecutor appointed to look into potential criminality in this case? Why didn’t the local commonwealth’s attorney, Colin Stolle, take the case as he normally would?

Well, Stolle’s request for a special prosecutor may have some answers:

“This office is so situated with respect to potential witnesses in this matter as to render it improper for this office to make any potential charging decisions or to prosecute such potential charges.”

Being “so situated with respect to potential witnesses” could mean a lot of things. But in short, Stolle says he is too close to the case.

Colin’s older brother, notably, is Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle, a Republican.

At least 50 deputies and civilians in Ken Stolle’s office signed Brown’s petitions, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported last week.

Sheriff Stolle appeared to recognize the importance of getting Brown on the ballot. “When you see five or six candidates on the ballot, I think the incumbent is very happy to see that,” he told the Times-Dispatch.

A source told me about two potential criminal violations that people in the sheriff’s office may have witnessed in this case: First, the signature-gatherers may not have personally witnessed each of the signatures as they were written, as they are required to by law.

The Times-Dispatch reported:

Several pages of the petitions list back-to-back signatures from deputies and civilian employees. Tina Mapes, a captain in the sheriff’s office who is also the chair of the Virginia Beach Republican Party, filled out Brown’s name and address on one of the petition forms.

Second, the sheriff’s office employees may have signed the petitions on government time, and may have documented that effort on government email and other traceable communications.

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