Campaign staffers for U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA) have been tied to allegedly forged signatures on dozens of petitions in an effort to get left-leaning Independent candidate Shaun Brown on the November ballot and spoil the vote for Taylor’s Democratic opponent, Elaine Luria.
An investigation by The Virginian-Pilot found 59 people who said they did not sign the petitions for Brown submitted by Taylor staffers, and another four who were dead at the time they reportedly signed.
“He’s 102,” Carol Campbell told The Virginian-Pilot of her father, Floyd Felten, whose signature appears on the petition. “He really can’t sign his name that well.”
Eddie Newkirk’s father, a retired Marine and Korean War veteran, died in 2016. That didn’t keep his name off the petition for Brown submitted by the Taylor staffers.
“I’m not surprised,” he told The Virginian-Pilot. “But I’m disappointed that someone would stoop to that level.”
Even one person who admitted signing the petition told The Virginian-Pilot that a Taylor staffer mislead her and others about what they were signing during a Republican Party gathering.
“He told us we really need to back this person,”Holly Tuthill said. “Many of us signed it blindly because he was one of us and we trusted him.”
A special prosecutor, Roanoke Commonwealth’s Attorney Don Caldwell, has been appointed to investigate the alleged forgeries. The Virginia Democratic Party has also filed suit in state court to block printing of ballots with Brown’s name on them. That suit includes affidavits from 35 people whose names appear on the petitions for Brown but who claim they did not sign them.
Taylor fired his campaign manager and a consultant over the petition signatures. He knew some of his campaign staffers were collecting signatures for Brown, according to The Virginian-Pilot, but denies it was to spoil the vote for Luria.
Brown, who is currently facing trial on charges she defrauded the government using a summer meal program meant for children, reportedly did not know Taylor staffers were collecting petition signatures for her. She declined The Virginian-Pilot’s request for comment.
The state board of elections declared 1,030 of the 1,900 signatures submitted for Brown to be valid — just over the 1,000 she needed to get on the ballot. But the lawsuit and special prosecutor investigation could put her bid in jeopardy.
Asked if any of the five staffers who submitted petitions for Brown were still part of the campaign, Taylor’s campaign spokesperson punted.
“With respect to the efforts by some in our campaign to assist Ms. Brown in getting on the ballot, there is an investigation that is ongoing, and it obviously would not be appropriate to comment at this time,” Taylor spokesperson Scott Weldon told The Virginian-Pilot by email.
Caldwell declined to comment on an open investigation, according to The Virginian-Pilot, but said it may well stretch out past the election.
CLARIFICATION (8/25/2018, 2:45 p.m. ET): The headline and first paragraph of this story have been updated to better reflect what we currently know about the allegedly forged signatures.