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Protecting the "Democratic" Brand

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Message Anita Stewart
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As a political newcomer and challenger to Jim Moran, I see most everything from the perspective of an outsider looking in.  Sometimes this is refreshing; sometimes not.

Let me assure everyone, what I saw last week was not pretty.  I saw myself illegitimately thrown off the Democratic ballot for the June 12th primary.  I saw no right of due process, no right of review.  I saw time-critical communications go unreturned without further thought.  I saw no recourse but to file an expensive lawsuit in Federal Court versus my own Democratic Party.  I expected to challenge the incumbent; I didn't expect to challenge a dysfunctional, or worse, system intent on denying the will of the people.

Within a day of filing the lawsuit, we were advised that dozens of our heretofore "misplaced" petition sheets were now discovered.  I saw my name reinstated onto the ballot; though harm was done - to me certainly as a full week of critical campaigning time and money was lost.  But I am more concerned with the reputation of our Democratic Brand. 

We are the party of equality and fairness.  So what just happened here in the shadow of our Capitol?

Sometimes it is useful to turn things around in order to test a question.  Thus, could anyone imagine the following: that the incumbent's petition sheets could have gone AWOL and that he would have been forced to file in Federal Court to get on the ballot?  I think not.

As a former Navy Fighter Pilot, I am used to trusting people with my life.  You don't survive one of the world's most dangerous workspaces without a lot of honest teamwork.

Conversely, counting petitions is one of the world's easiest jobs -- account for all the sheets and count the valid signatures.  I trusted them to do their job.  It is so basic, that when catastrophic failures like this arise; the possibility of foul play must be considered.  There is too much at stake.  To keep a candidate for U.S. Congress off the ballot through gross negligence or far worse; is simply unacceptable, un-American, anti-Democratic and must be addressed.

I encourage like-minded Democrats who embrace our party as the party of equality and fairness to demand answers from those who have taken reckless risks with our brand.

Where is our moral standing on the critical issue of election integrity when our current Democratic leadership stands by idly and quietly while this happens under their noses?  I will fight for fairness.  Will the leadership in the Democratic Party join me?  

Having received no apology and no offer to defray my substantial legal expenses, I'd love to have my faith restored in the Democratic leadership's capacity to do the right thing.  For now, the sound of crickets chirping around the carcass of fair play in Virginia's 8th Congressional District is deafening.

The writer is Bruce Shuttleworth, Democratic Candidate for U.S. Congress in Virginia's 8th Congressional District.
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