Contentious Bedford listening to held on problem to Home 53 candidate’s residency

BEDFORD — Simply weeks earlier than a Might 6 conference set for Republicans to decide on a nominee for the 53rd Virginia Home of Delegates district, one in all two GOP candidates vying for the seat sat earlier than Bedford County’s registrar for a listening to on a petition legally difficult his residency as a voter.

Tim Griffin, chair of the Bedford County Republican Committee and a former prosecutor in Amherst and Bedford counties, is working for the newly drawn 53rd district, which incorporates all of Amherst County and elements of Bedford and Nelson counties. Additionally working for the seat is Sarah Mays, a Forest resident who owns and operates a Christian day care in Amherst County.

The GOP conference is Might 6 at Jefferson Forest Excessive Faculty. The listening to Monday within the Bedford Central Public Library, which drew a crowd of simply greater than 30 individuals, a handful carrying purple shirts in help of Griffin, was an evidentiary continuing that Bedford County Registrar Barbara Gunter stated stems from a criticism she acquired April 6 from Bedford County residents Donald Toms, Margie Jones and Billy Hackworth.

The petition argues Griffin didn’t legally set up residency and domicile at his tackle, 102 N. Woodfin Ct. in Forest, and requests he be faraway from the voter rolls. The nine-page petition states Griffin has “tried to ascertain residence in a indifferent storage owned by a buddy for the needs of creating a voter registration residence” on the identical day he filed to run for the Home seat, which in response to Griffin’s testimony Monday was 51 days in the past.

The petition states Bedford County zoning information present the storage “seems to lack each a full lavatory, and a certificates of occupancy, in addition to the property itself showing to lack the correct zoning ordinance to have a indifferent residence from the common dwelling quarters of the home.” The doc additionally argues Griffin has failed to fulfill a authorized requirement in establishing domicile and is neither a certified voter nor a candidate for workplace.

Griffin stated in response the case is “appalling” and described it as a “political hit job.”

“That you’d have residents and voters are available right here and attempt to disenfranchise any individual over a political subject is disgusting,” Griffin stated. “What has occurred right here, it ought to by no means occur to anybody else.”

Gunter requested the three petitioners and Griffin to restrict their testimony to solely the matter of residency at N. Woodfin Courtroom in Forest.

“That is very difficult for me,” Jones stated. “Did we wish to do that? No.”

Jones stated many individuals have requested to carry the criticism earlier than election officers “a problem of coping with voter integrity” and whether or not Griffin has correctly established authorized residence within the county. Working for workplace requires character and ethical values, she stated.

“An lawyer who has talked about election integrity ought to know set up a authorized residence. It’s not exhausting,” Jones stated, including towards Griffin seated a number of toes away: “The individuals who disagree with you on this room ought to by no means be silenced … We would like a candidate to symbolize the residents of the 53rd district who stands for the legislation — the legislation.”

Toms advised Gunter that, opposite to Griffin’s voter software, he doesn’t legally meet the residency requirement.

“Reasonably he’s supposedly dwelling in a indifferent storage on the property… that indifferent storage doesn’t and can’t legally represent a dwelling for dwelling functions as decided by the Bedford County Division of Group Improvement,” Toms stated, including: “We principally wish to observe the legislation.”

Griffin described himself as an lawyer “combating for clear and honest elections.”

“Everywhere in the nation, I see individuals attempting to disenfranchise different voters primarily based off of political causes,” Griffin stated, including: “Your proper to vote is a constitutional proper that shouldn’t be infringed. For individuals to try to are available right here and disenfranchise a voter for arguing with them politically, I feel it’s exceptional.”

Griffin referred to as the occasions main as much as Monday’s listening to “extraordinary” and stated the petitioners had no proof or testimony with firsthand information, describing their case as “rumour.”

“If we had been in court docket, I might have performed a movement to dismiss as a result of there’s no proof,” Griffin stated. “There’s simply opinions by some malcontents. After I first introduced I used to be working for workplace, I had no thought the prolonged my political opponent would go to try to disenfranchise me and search energy. It’s my perception that these prepared to do something for energy should be avoided all of it prices.”

He additional said the criticism is a part of “an try by my opponent’s marketing campaign to take away me from the voter rolls to allow them to win an [election].”

Mays, who attended the listening to, stated afterward her marketing campaign filed for information from the Bedford County zoning workplace beneath the Virginia Freedom of Info Act as a result of “we had been getting hit” with questions from involved residents and it was not a political assault on her half.

“This has nothing to do with getting him eliminated as a result of I wish to win or I would like energy,” Mays stated.

Mays stated residents have a proper to specific their issues a few matter that impacts their illustration. She added Griffin is making it about her and “continues to deflect” in regard to his residency.

“That is the issue on the prime: there’s so many politicians and individuals who don’t suppose the legislation applies to them.”

The eventual GOP nominee will face Sam Soghor, chair of the Amherst County Democratic Committee who additionally seeks the Home 53 district seat.

Griffin stated Jones is a monetary contributor to Mays’ marketing campaign and the petitioners wish to criminalize a political opponent over a disagreement. “This not what ought to occur in a free nation,” Griffin added.

He stated the petitioners try “to throw mud at me” and argued they’re persevering with a legacy of voter disenfranchisement, including “and I’m embarrassed for you.” One other level of rivalry in opposition to him, Griffin stated, was his affect over a latest faculty board race in Bedford County that he stated resulted in exhausting emotions.

“Mr. Griffin, I didn’t do any mudslinging immediately,” Jones stated. “I don’t know even sling mud. I simply go by the information and what we’ve researched and what our legal professionals have researched and came upon for us. What we’ve got discovered and what you may have stated your self in documentation is that you’ve got lived in a storage.”

A storage isn’t a authorized residence primarily based on Bedford County zoning, Jones argued.

“This has nothing to do with any faculty board election,” Jones stated of why the criticism was filed. “I’m not involved about that.”

Griffin raised his voice a number of instances throughout the contentious listening to, which introduced forth remarks from the viewers to the purpose that Gunter requested the group to remain quiet. Hackworth stated he felt Griffin’s statements in the direction of the petitioners had been “impolite” and unbecoming of a candidate for state workplace.

Throughout the listening to, Griffin submitted as proof his driver’s license, library card, motorized vehicle registration, information of his paying property taxes in Bedford County and a photograph of his dwelling preparations.

Toms stated voting is a privilege everybody has to earn by assembly authorized necessities and the legislation is what’s vital within the petition.

Griffin stated the criticism relies on “political bias” and is a part of an agenda in opposition to him.

“When individuals ask me what I wish to be remembered for in politics, I hope it’s that I fought for what is true and I fought for what I believed in. And I didn’t use the legislation to criminalize and go after my opponents,” Griffin stated.

He stated he has by no means missed an election and votes in each GOP major. “Even after I journey combating for election integrity from individuals like this throughout the nation, I nonetheless voted in Virginia elections,” Griffin stated.

Gunter stated she’s going to give consideration to all testimony and proof, and anticipating to decide this week, she persevering with the listening to to 2 p.m. Wednesday. She stated will apply state legislation and insurance policies and procedures established by the state board of elections.

“I can guarantee you that’s what my choice shall be primarily based upon,” Gunter advised gatherers.

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