After nearly a year of collecting signatures, Virginia Tea Party members turned in a petition to recall Senator Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth). The petition alleges “Misuse of Office” as the reason for removal, and the grassroots group’s President Nelson Velez said it’s been signed by approximately 8,000 people – nearly double the number statutorily required.
On June 10, 2020 a protest erupted at the Portsmouth Confederate monument. A man was seriously injured when part of the monument fell down, and local police filed charges against Lucas for “conspiracy to commit a felony” and “felony injuring to a monument in excess of $1,000.”
In November, the City of Portsmouth District Court dismissed the charges against Lucas.
The Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office had asked the court to dismiss the charges, arguing that by not intervening in the vandalism, officers who were on scene “either explicitly or implicitly misled [the defendants] to believe that such conduct was lawful.”
Velez told The Virginia Star Tuesday that he disagrees with the court and said the people never got justice. He said the Lucas situation is important because everyone’s actions were caught on camera. He argued that it’s a rare chance to make a point about similar situations beyond Lucas’ district.
He said, “Just to take a big picture of this is that for the longest time over the past year, innocent people have been beaten up, including reporters, and people had their livelihoods burned to the ground.”
“The fear is, without consequences this kind of thing, this kind of mob mentality, will start to grow and overrun our country like it has in other countries,” he said.
In the months following the June protest, Virginia Beach lawyer Tim Anderson began circulating the petition to remove Lucas. But when Lucas sued Anderson for $20 million, alleging defamation, Velez took over the petition. Velez said collecting the signatures has taken a long time because of the pandemic, which discourages large groups of people from congregating, and because people are less likely to answer their door. He said volunteers have been staffing a table on weekends in front of locations like the YMCA and the library, changing locations in order to avoid harassment from protesters.
As a result of the lengthy signature collection process, Velez is prepared for the court to determine that many of the signatures are invalid. But recall petitions only require signatures from 10 percent of voters in the politicians’ district. In this case, Velez said that’s about 4,500 signatures, so he thinks he has a good buffer.
Lucas may contest the signatures, which may prolong the process of evaluating that there are enough. Velez is not sure how long the process will take, but he said he’s aware of some potential candidates waiting to run against Lucas if the recall petition is successful. Lucas is a powerful senator with decades of experience, and is backed by the Democratic establishment. Velez said she’s likely to win even if a recall election is held.
“In this particular case, the Commonwealth’s Attorney, courts, and the major media outlets have really failed the American people, and so the last-ditch effort is going to have to come from us, which is really hard to do.” Nelson said.
Lucas did not respond to a request for comment. In response to 13NewsNow reporter Ali Weatherton’s request, Lucas said, “Ask them to read the constitution.”
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