Prominent Virginia Beach attorney and House of Delegates candidate Tim Anderson filed a lawsuit against Governor Ralph Northam (D) on Wednesday over the 38th Senatorial District special election set for later this year.
The 38th District was previously occupied by the late Senator Ben Chafin, who died of COVID-19 complications at the beginning of the year, and on Tuesday Northam issued a March 23 date for the election to determine a replacement.
Filed by Anderson on behalf of a client that lives within the district, the lawsuit claims that the governor’s action was politically motivated and done to divest constituents from having representation during this year’s Senate session, which began Wednesday and is expected to last 30 days, according to the court complaint provided to The Virginia Star by Anderson.
The suit asks the court to order Northam to issue a new date for the special election as soon as possible, which would have to account for a 10-day waiting period as mandated by state law, so the new senator will still be able to take part in the legislative session, Anderson said in a Facebook video explaining the case.
Anderson said he believes there was adequate time for the governor to have set the election before the legislature convened since Northam waited until 11 days after Chafin’s death to choose the date.
Additionally, Anderson argues there is precedent since Northam set special elections with shorter time frames for the 2nd and 90th Districts of the House of Delegates last month after former legislators Joe Lindsay and Jennifer Carroll Foy resigned.
“There is literally no difference between a Senator or a Delegate when it comes to having a special election,” Anderson told The Star. “There’s no difference whatsoever, and the governor did the special election for the two delegates in December within [a month]. So, for him to need two and a half months there is no purpose for that other than to keep a likely Republican out of the Senate during the session this year.”
Northam is being represented in this case by the Office of the Attorney General, Anderson said.
The Star reached out to the governor’s office for comment on the lawsuit and the claims therein, but did not get a response before press time.
On Thursday afternoon, the case was taken up in the Dickenson County circuit court, but the governor’s lawyers asked for some time to prepare a reply. Now, the attorney general’s office has until Tuesday to file a petition and the final hearing will happen next Wednesday, according to Anderson.
Located in Southwest Virginia and encompassing several counties and cities, the 38th District is considered to be strongly Republican and has been represented by a conservative Senator since 2014, according to the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP).
So far, six Republican candidates have entered the election to replace Chafin, according to VPAP.
“Ultimately, what is important is that if we prevail on Wednesday, there is a possibility that we could have a special election on February 2, which would put a replacement Senator in the mix with 10 to 11 days left in the session,” Anderson said. “It is very important to persist in this because you have [roughly] 212,000 people that have no representation right now, and we’re hoping to have a victory in this case next week for the people in the 38th.”
– – –
Jacob Taylor is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Follow Jacob on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Background Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Anderskev. CC BY 3.0.