Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney candidate Nicole Wittmann (R) hugged and thanked both her attorneys Tuesday night after a judge dismissed a petition claiming she was ineligible to appear on the ballot.
Accused of falsifying a residency statement and erroneously stating she was qualified for the ballot in Loudoun, the petition brought on by local Democratic leadership sought to disqualify her from the November election.
The petitioners said they believed Wittmann was continuing to reside at a former address in Herndon.
However, Judge Richard Potter, a retired judge from the 31st Judicial Circuit Court, determined Wittmann made numerous attempts to become a Loudoun County resident and is eligible to be a candidate for the commonwealth’s attorney seat.
“The process has been very stressful because by filing the petition, which was a complete and utter lie, not only did they accuse me of something that I didn’t do, but they also put my family and our safety in danger,” Wittmann said.
The petitioners, led by Loudoun County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Lissa Savaglio, Vice Chairwoman Shelley Tamres, Avram Fetcher and Debbie Piland, claimed Wittmann's voter registration is connected to an apartment within Loudoun where Alex Rueda, a Wittmann co-worker at the commonwealth's attorney's office, lives. Wittmann filed her Declaration of Candidacy listing the Loudoun County apartment in question as her address.
Reston attorney Michael York, who represented the plaintiffs, questioned Wittmann and Rueda on where the Republican nominee spent most of her time -- an effort to determine her domicile. He also used date location points from her cell phone examination to pinpoint where she spent most of her time between February and mid-June.
“I wasn’t keeping a log. I wasn’t expecting to be sued or stalked,” Rueda answered.
Wittmann testified that it was her intention to live in Loudoun County prior to learning about the seat coming open. Current Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman (R) is taking a judgeship in the 20th Circuit Court.
Wittmann said she and her husband tried to sell their home twice since moving into the Herndon residence in 2001, including once in 2013 and then earlier this year.
Wittmann said she would stay in Leesburg between two and four nights a week while splitting time in Herndon to tend to her teenage boys, mother and godfather. Only on two occasions did she spend between five to seven days at a time in Leesburg, according to information presented in court.
Wittmann said she wanted a larger home for personal reasons and for her children to attend some of the “outstanding” high school sports programs in Loudoun County.
The family officially moved into Loudoun in July.
Candidates running for any office in Virginia must be a resident in the state for one year preceding their election and be qualified to vote for the office they are seeking, according to the Virginia Constitution.
Wittmann is facing Democratic nominee Buta Biberaj, a Leesburg attorney, in the contest to succeed Plowman.
The Virginia Supreme Court assigned the case to Potter after local judges recused themselves.
Leesburg attorney Charles King, who represented Wittmann, doubled down on his earlier remarks, saying, “Buta should apologize for wasting everybody’s time."
“She knows Loudoun voters won't elect a candidate with a radical, liberal, criminal agenda who has never prosecuted a case, so she tried to win through the courts,” he added.
After the hearing, Wittmann said, “We’re going to keep meeting with voters, meeting with neighbors, knocking on doors and getting our message out as to why I am the right person to be the next commonwealth’s attorney."
Biberaj responded, “My commitment to Loudoun County remains steadfast – that is to bring transparency, accountability and integrity to the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney."
“My 'agenda' is based on the 'radical' idea that our highest law enforcement official should be honest and truthful. The lawsuit, filed by the people of Loudoun, set forth allegations that relate to her knowledge of the law and the truthfulness of her sworn statements, and are for Mr. King and her to address in court and account to the people of Loudoun."
Potter issued his ruling after spending nearly 50 minutes in his chambers following the day-long hearing.
As of Tuesday night, York was uncertain if he would seek an appeal.