PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Local politics in Gloucester: Well, it’s complicated. Allegations of fraud about election fraud are currently the talk of the town on the Middle Peninsula.
Gloucester, with a charming Main Street, was founded in 1651 and has a population of 38,711.
The Black population in Gloucester County is 8%, according to the 2020 census. Pastor Kevin Smith is part of the 8%. The former School Board member is the sole minority on the Board of Supervisors.
In a 10 On Your Side exclusive, Smith is calling on the United States Justice Department to investigate an alleged scheme to wipe his name off the November ballot.
Smith, an at-large candidate, is seeking re-election in a race against Republican challenger Teresa Altemus. In a Zoom interview, Smith explained the election landscape.
“I am a minority in this county. Everyone knows this and in the last election, I won and I won an election by beating a white Republican incumbent. I know we have issues, but I have not faced any issues at all,” said Smith.
But now, Smith is alleging several people have waged an effort to have his name removed from the ballot by accusing Smith’s camp of forging a name on the required petition of 125 registered voters.
10 On Your Side has reviewed a portion of the petition that includes the last name Hodges. According to the document, Hodges’ name was collected in June, following a funeral.
Regina Mobley: Did you see him [Hodges] sign it?
Kevin Smith: Yes.
Regina Mobley: At some point later on, someone approached election officials to say that Hodges’ name is fake?
Kevin Smith: Yes.
Regina Mobley: “And Mr. Hodges, to the contrary though, signed an affidavit — you believe under some kind of pressure — stating that he did not sign the petition?
Kevin Smith: “Yes, that is my belief.”
The Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office investigated the matter and Smith says he was cleared of any wrongdoing. In a letter dated September 1, 2020, special prosecutor Janee D. Joslin wrote: …”we are of the opinion that there is no evidence of a crime having been committed.”
Regina Mobley: “When you look at this episode, do we have ‘Jim Crow 2.0′ in Gloucester?”
Kevin Smith: “I think when it comes down to trying to stop people from voting for a candidate I wouldn’t say all of Gloucester is like this… I have a lot of friends in Gloucester Country who are Republicans and who are Democrats… I have a good rapport with a lot of people in this community.”
Altemus issued a response that was posted to Facebook.
Altemus wrote in part: “If he wants to play in the mud, he can do it by himself… The investigation categorically had nothing to do with me whatsoever… ”
WAVY-TV anticipates an interview with Altemus in the near future.
Smith has called on the Justice Department to investigate to determine whether a crime was committed in an effort to question the Hodges signature.
“My name would have been removed from the ballot. I would have lost my church; I’m the pastor of a church. That’s a felony punishable of up to 10 years in jail… It could have had a devastating effect on my life, my career, and my family,” said Smith.
Meanwhile, the Gloucester NAACP is investigating a complaint of campaign sabotage and voter intimidation. In a statement, President Brenda Dixon wrote:
“We received a complaint of alleged campaign sabotage as well as, voter intimidation. The NAACP is committed to assuring everyone has equal opportunity to run for office and every voters’ access to the ballot, is protected. Therefore the NAACP Gloucester Branch is seeking information from the Gloucester County Board of Elections to determine if we need to refer this matter to the State or National Organization for further proceedings to protect the civil rights of Gloucester citizens to exercise their Constitutional rights to run for office and to vote for the candidate of their choice, free from subtle, as well as, overt, intimidation. Brenda Dixon President of NAACP Gloucester Virginia Branch 7070-B.”
WAVY-TV 10 has reviewed several documents that were provided by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office in Virginia Beach.
Smith has not received a response from federal prosecutors on whether they will review his complaint.