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Nevada Today

Nevada Today is a nonpartisan, independently owned and operated site dedicated to providing up-to-date news and smart analysis on the issues that impact Nevada's communities and businesses.

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The Virginia Connection

What on earth do the Silver State and the Old Dominion have in common? For starters, Adam Laxalt (R). Second, we’re both swing states. And third, Democrats are hoping to flip Congressional seats in both states.

About that last point, one Republican incumbent and his campaign might have stooped to new lows just to save his House seat. How low? Try forging a signature from a Nevada resident to get a spoiler candidate on the Virginia ballot.

What’s the deal with the former SEAL?
Photo provided by the United States Congress

On paper, Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Virginia) has a very impressive biography. He served as a Navy SEAL, served during the Iraq War, went on counternarcotics operations in Latin America, became a successful entrepreneur, got elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, then won his seat in Congress in 2016 with ease. First in the House of Delegates, then in Congress, Taylor has been able to build the kind of “noble moderate” reputation that former Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) had been working to build here in Nevada, so the early conventional wisdom was that Taylor shouldn’t have too much trouble holding onto the swingy Virginia Beach based 2nd Congressional District (VA-02) despite any national headwinds that may blow his way.

But then, last November happened. Not only did Governor Ralph Northam (D) beat Ed Gillespie (R) by a wider than expected margin (8.93%), but Northam also bested Gillespie in VA-02. Then as Elaine Luria (D) began to prove herself a credible challenger, Virginia Republicans started to get more nervous. Then when white nationalist Corey Stewart (R) became the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, Virginia Republicans went from nervous to full-blown panic.

Who’s Shaun Brown, and why were Scott Taylor supporters collecting signatures for her?
Photo provided by the Office of Rep. Liz Cheney

In 2016, Shaun Brown was the Democratic nominee who ran against Scott Taylor. She lost by nearly 22%, even as Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in this district by less than 4%. Brown decided to seek a rematch in 2018, then decided to collect petition signatures to run as an independent after she lost in the Democratic primary.

Though Shaun Brown has virtually zero chance of winning this seat this fall, she nonetheless has become a central figure in the election. For one, Brown stood trial for fraud charges relating to her charity receiving $850,000 in federal funding in 2012 that never went to its intended purpose of feeding children in need. The case ended in a mistrial due to a jury holdout, though prosecutors have said they want a retrial. And now, the Virginia Democratic Party is suing to have Brown removed from the general election ballot due to multiple fraudulent signatures being found on her petition forms.

Here is where it gets even wilder: Four of Rep. Scott Taylor’s paid campaign workers gathered over half of the petition signatures to get Shaun Brown on the ballot. Why on earth would a group of Virginia Republicans gather signatures to get the 2016 Democratic nominee on the 2018 ballot in VA-02, and how exactly did they collect those signatures?

Here’s where Nevada fits into this sordid Virginia scene
Photo by Andrew Davey

For anyone plugged into the progressive activist scene here in the Las Vegas Valley, one’s probably heard of Eileen Eady. She got involved with the local Indivisible movement early on, founded Together We Will Nevada, and even ran for the Clark County School District (CCSD) Board of Trustees in an effort to make a difference in public education here in Southern Nevada. Eady may be part of the 75% of Nevadans who have moved here from elsewhere, but she’s certainly done a lot to plant deep roots here.

So why was Eileen Eady’s name on one of the petition forms to get Shaun Brown on the ballot in Virginia? The Virginian-Pilot recently investigated Brown’s petitions, and found 59 fraudulent signatures. Before the paper published its findings, Lindsey Terry, a local Democratic Party activist and former neighbor of Eady’s in Virginia Beach, found that Eady’s name was on the petition for Brown, and confronted Taylor about it on social media.

Taylor then tried to get Terry to take down this information pointing to a Taylor campaign staffer by the name of Heather Guillot submitting the petition form with Eileen Eady’s signature on it. Meanwhile, he posted a video to his Facebook page (that’s since been deleted from his page) accusing Virginia Beach Democrats, “Washington Democrats”, and the local NPR station that’s been investigating the Brown petitions of unfair treatment of him and his campaign.

He addressed the issue of Heather Guillot and the petitions she submitted by portraying her as a victim, saying, “They also accused this private citizen of committing a crime of fraud.” He continued, “I mean, she should sue them. They defamed her publicly. I hope she does sue them.”

“I’m on the record saying I was aware of it.”
– Rep. Scott Taylor, on his campaign staffers collecting signatures for Shaun Brown

In that same video, Taylor pledged, “If anyone in my campaign did anything that was wrong, that was illegal, or inappropriate or something like that, I would fire them in a second, to include my closest advisers.”

Three weeks later, Taylor appeared on a conservative talk radio show and was asked why his campaign staff were collecting signatures to place Democrat-turned-independent Shaun Brown on the ballot. His reply: “I’m already on the record saying I was aware of it,” after saying he couldn’t “go into further detail”. 

Earlier this month, a special prosecutor began investigating possible election fraud relating to these forged signatures. And yet, at least one campaign staffer who’s been accused of forging signatures is still working for Taylor’s campaign.

Will another famous Virginia Republican demand justice? (Doubt it.)

Photo by Andrew Davey

For years, we’ve heard various right-wing pundits and politicians scream about “voter fraud”. More recently, we’ve heard Virginia transplant Adam Laxalt complain of the evils of California infecting this state, where he’s only lived for the past seven years. In reality the kind of “voter fraud” (that is, impersonation fraud) that these folks complain about is incredibly rare, and that the nation is facing far more serious threats to election integrity than unsubstantiated allegations of “fraud”. And yes, that means the urban myths you may have heard about California’s elections are just that.

But funny enough, when actual cases of election fraud materialize, they often involve the very forces that love all sorts of fraudulent fear-mongering. We saw this here in Nevada in 2004 and 2012 with a voter registration fraud scheme, and we’re seeing it in Virginia now with a possible scheme to use fraudulent petition signatures to place a spoiler on the ballot to siphon votes away from the Democratic candidate.

So far, Virginia native Adam Laxalt hasn’t weighed in here. Is it because this story hits a little too close to home, or is it just due to the fact that he can’t tie it to California (unlike, say, his own finances)? Whatever the case, now might be a good time for Laxalt to look out for Nevadans and have an honest conversation with his fellow Virginia Republicans about fraud and integrity.

Editor’s Note: Speaking of California, I’m escaping for one last summer sojourn this weekend. But fear not, as we have some great stuff in store for you next week. Until then, I hope you have a great Labor Day holiday.

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