A group of Loudoun County voters and local Democrats are claiming that Republican Commonwealth's Attorney candidate Nicole Wittmann should be disqualified from the ballot in November's election.
In a court petition filed to determine the qualification of Wittmann, the Republican nominee is being accused of falsifying a residency statement in her Certificate of Qualification form and erroneously stating she was qualified to vote in Loudoun.
The petitioners, led by Loudoun County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Lissa Savaglio, Vice Chairwoman Shelley Tamres, Avram Fetcher and Debbie Piland, claim 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.
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 that office, according to the Virginia Constitution.
"The law is pretty clear that you have to be a legal voter at the time you file your candidacy papers, and there is question about whether she had proper domicile in Loudoun County when she registered to vote,” Reston-based attorney Mike York, who is representing the plaintiffs, told the Times-Mirror Tuesday. “And that's all the petition is asking for – a review of her qualifications as a legal voter."
The petitioners say they have evidence Wittmann continues to reside at a former address in Herndon.
Wittmann is facing Democratic nominee Buta Biberaj, a Leesburg attorney, in the contest to succeed Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman (R), who was appointed to serve as a 20th Circuit Court judge in February.
Leesburg attorney Charles King, who has been retained by Wittmann, said his client lives in Loudoun County and their team was prepared to set a trial date for the case until Loudoun County Circuit Court judges recused themselves. The Virginia Supreme Court is now assigning a judge in the matter.
"Biberaj’s suit is a desperate attempt to take the decision about who should be our next commonwealth’s attorney away from the citizens and move it into the courts,” said King, who was the Republican nominee for Loudoun County Board of Supervisors chairman in 2015.
King added, “Biberaj is taking this cheap shot because she can't defend her total lack of experience and her record of coddling dangerous criminals to the voters of Loudoun County."
Biberaj responded Wednesday by saying, "I would refer Mr. King to review the pleadings and recognize that I am not a party so this is not my lawsuit—it is the lawsuit of the people of Loudoun County.”
"The reality is that no one is or should be above the law,” Biberaj said. “The Virginia Constitution and voter laws have set the legal requirements for a person to be eligible to run for elected office. The rules apply to everyone and must be obeyed, especially if you are asking to be trusted to represent the people of Loudoun as its highest law enforcement official. There is no worse message to send to our community than that the laws don’t apply to you.”
Biberaj has practiced as a defense attorney in Loudoun County for more than 25 years and served as a substitute judge for a decade.
Wittmann has been a prosecutor in the Loudoun Office of the Commonwealth's Attorney since 2005, serving as the chief deputy since 2012.
Loudoun County Office of Elections Director Judith Brown said Wednesday she has been in consultation with the state Board of Election on the matter.