By Bridget Manley, publisher
Mayor Deanna Reed, the top vote getter in the last month’s Harrisonburg City Council Democratic primary, said she still plans to run for re-election and for her name to be on the Nov. 3 election ballot even though her election paperwork wasn’t submitted by Virginia’s June 9 deadline. And the state Democratic Party has stepped in to ask the state for a filing extension in the wake of other election-related postponements this spring.
“Harrisonburg, despite what you may have heard today, I am still in this race,” Reed told The Citizen in a statement. “As always, it is my honor to serve this City. I received 82% of the vote in Democratic caucus just one month ago and I can assure you I have every intention of improving this community for all residents. Thank you so much for believing in and supporting me. You can’t get rid of me that easy.”
Reed issued the statement in response to The Citizen’s interview requests, although the statement didn’t address why she missed the 7 p.m. filing deadline Tuesday, which was first reported Thursday afternoon by the Daily News-Record and WHSV. Debbie Logan, director of elections and registrar for Harrisonburg, confirmed to the The Citizen that Reed didn’t submit her paperwork and said Reed, therefore, couldn’t appear on the Nov. 3 ballot.
But Harrisonburg Democratic Party Chairman Alleyn Harned, said a series of election postponements and office closures at the state and local level because of the COVID-19 pandemic created confusion about when — and how — candidate registration should have been received.
“The reason for these deadlines is usually because they follow a primary or caucus, and for the most part, those track,” Harned said. “This year is different. What has happened different this year? We have a health crisis in the coronavirus that actually caused the governor to send out stay-at-home orders. It delayed the Republican Primary….And so normally these things follow that same schedule, so about the same time as the primary, a little bit after that, you’ve got to turn in your paperwork.”
Gov. Ralph Northam postponed the Republican primary, which was originally to be held on June 9, to June 23. Harned said because of that move, other deadlines on the calendar should have been moved as well to assist candidates during the pandemic.
Harned confirmed that the state Democratic Party Election Protection Office has filed for an extension. The deadline to file if a candidate is granted an extension is June 30, according to the State Board of Virginia Elections website.
“The state party lawyers have filed with the Board of Elections on our behalf for the allowable 10-day extension under the Code of Virginia,” Harned said. “This is not a big deal. We’re not past our deadlines. There is an allowable extension, and we have filed for it.”
Harned also said he has been unable to speak with anyone at the state Board of Elections, because of the stay-at-home order.
“The state Board of Elections is also following stay-at-home orders, and they don’t have staffing responding or answering candidate phone calls,” Harned said. “There are no responses to the candidate hotline. There are no returned calls.”
The Harrisonburg City Republican Committee’s chairman, Jeffery Mayfield, issued a statement Thursday night saying he hopes “the rule of law will be upheld” and that the state elections board will deny the Democratic Party’s extension request.
“If you miss the deadline, you miss it, plain and simple regardless of the person or party affiliation,” Mayfield said.
Reed received 82% of the votes in the 2020 Democratic Primary, more than 20 percentage points more than the next top vote getter, Charles Hendricks.
Other Candidates Seeking Election
Logan confirmed that the candidates who will appear on the November ballot include Democrats Charles Hendricks and Laura Dent, who came in second and third, respectively in last month’s Democratic Primary, in which local Democratic voters submitted their ballots through the mail and e-mail.
In addition, council member George Hirschmann filed to run again for a second term as an independent. Hirschmann had considered running as a Republican, noting the 125 signatures needed to appear on the ballot without running under a party umbrella would be difficult during a pandemic. In the end, he decided to remain an independent candidate.
Also on the November ballot will be political newcomer Kathleen Kelley, an area physician, who will run as a Republican.
In the Harrisonburg school board race, half of the board’s six seats are up for election in November. And the three incumbents whose seats are up — Deb Fitzgerald, Kaylene Seigle and Nick Swayne — all filed to run again and will vy for those spots with a fourth candidate, newcomer Irvin Peckham.
Logan To Retire In July
Logan, the city director of elections and registrar, announced she will retire in July.
Logan has served in the role for 16 years and said she will step aside next month so the position can be filled during a slow month of an election cycle, allowing her successor to be ready for the November election.
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