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Former Virginia delegate sues Democratic Party, Gov. Youngkin over 7th Senate District special election

Cheryl Turpin is calling the Democratic Party's nomination process “unconstitutional.”

RICHMOND, Va. — A former Virginia delegate is suing the Democratic Party of Virginia and Gov. Glenn Youngkin in a bid to halt the party's nomination process for the upcoming special election for Virginia’s 7th Senate District.

Cheryl Turpin filed a nearly 40-page lawsuit asking a judge to issue a preliminary injunction stopping the Virginia Board of Elections from certifying the results of the Democrat’s nomination of Aaron Rouse as a candidate for the 7th Senate District special election and to “declare [it] null and void.”

The lawsuit points to "serious and unfortunately long-standing constitutional infirmities" in the nomination process for the special election. 

Attorney Paul Goldman, the former chair of the Virginia Democratic Party, said although he’s not Turpin’s attorney, he helped her with this lawsuit.

“It’s not aimed at anybody; it’s not aimed at any candidate. It’s principal and at times you have to put the principal above party," Goldman said. “Cheryl’s situation struck me as something I’ve been trying to change... She got caught up in a law that should have been 40 years ago.” 

Among other things, Turpin is also asking a judge to declare the $5,000 filing fee required for the Democratic nomination process “unconstitutional.” The lawsuit calls the fee unfair and exclusionary.

"This is the public's right to vote; this is our process. It's not up to the party. It's not up to either major political party to take over and dictate who has a seat in the Senate, who has a seat in the Congress, who has the seat in the House of Delegates," Goldman said. “It really undermines confidence and people think it goes to the highest bidder and that's what's happened in this case."

Turpin isn’t looking for money. In the lawsuit, she only asks for at least $1 in damages and for attorney fees to be covered if she wins.

Turpin lost the 2019 election to Jen Kiggans by a little more than 500 votes. Based on that, the lawsuit says: “Ms. Turpin was by far the leading and obvious choice to be the nominee in this Special Election given her near win last time.”

The lawsuit adds: "However, it appears she had angered certain powerful Party leaders by her independence especially on issues of importance to the win in her district." 

Goldman acknowledged if Turpin wants her name on the ballot in the special election, it won’t be an easy fight.

“That’s going to be a tough fight, you’re going to have to have a preliminary injunction, you’re going to have to have a federal judge do it. No one says it’s not uphill," Goldman said. “If there’s only one candidate on the ballot – nobody has any choice; and in this case, in effect, they’ve given the nomination to someone who can pay $5,000.” 

Listed as the defendants in this lawsuit are Gov. Youngkin, Sen. Louise Lucas, members of the State Board of Elections, and members of the Democratic Party of Virginia.

A spokesperson for the Democratic Party said they will not comment on an ongoing legal matter.

The lawsuit also asks a judge to declare unconstitutional, the ability of the Democratic Party of Virginia to nominate candidates and regulate the "time, place, manner, conduct and administration of... special elections." 

Turpin also takes issue with the timeline for the nomination process. The lawsuit also notes: "State law requires political parties to determine the method of nomination, the time and place, and complete the selection process within five days of the issuance of the Writ of Election for a Special Election."

The lawsuit says the five-day window is "patently unfair to those wanting to run for the nomination" and asks a judge to "order a new constitutionally constituted nomination process."

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