NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Signatures collected for an independent candidate by a Virginia Republican congressman's staffers listed 59 allegedly fraudulent signatures and the names of four dead people, according to a newspaper's investigation.
Campaign staffers for U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor, who is running for re-election in Virginia's 2nd District, collected the signatures to help get independent Shaun Brown on the ballot ahead of the tight November race, The Virginian-Pilot reported. The signatures were submitted just before the June 12 filing deadline.
Out of the 584 people listed, the newspaper was able to contact 115 listees or their family members. Of those reached, 59 declared the signatures to be fraudulent.
Democratic party officials, who are suing state elections officials to end Brown's candidacy, say Taylor's petition was an effort to siphon votes from Democratic candidate Elaine Luria. Brown goes to trial in October on charges that she defrauded the federal government through a summer meal program for children. She has said she didn't know Taylor's staff was collecting signatures.
Taylor's office said earlier this month that he was aware that his staff had volunteered to collect signatures for Brown. But he said he was not at all involved. He also said the campaign workers were collecting signatures because they thought Brown had been treated unfairly by Democrats.
Taylor said weeks ago that he previously fired his campaign manager over separate issues, but "current knowledge underscores that decision." It also prompted him to fire a campaign consultant.
Some of the fake entries contained misspelled names. Others included an outdated address next to the name. One person was in the hospital being treated for throat cancer on the day he was reported to have signed.
Many of those named were elderly people, including Floyd Felten of Virginia Beach, whose name also was misspelled. Felten's daughter, Carol Campbell, said she's sure that her father didn't sign.
"He's 102," Campbell told The Virginian-Pilot. "He really can't sign his name that well."
Brown was the Democratic candidate in Virginia's 2nd District in 2016. She lost to Taylor by nearly 23 percentage points.
The race between Taylor and Luria has been listed as either a toss-up or as leaning Republican.