Beach State Senate race reopens wounds for man who lost wife in Municipal Center massacre

Local Politics

(This story has been updated with direct comment from Sen. Bill DeSteph)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – The surviving husband of one of the Virginia Beach massacre victims says a new campaign ad is re-opening the wounds of May 31.

Jason Nixon’s wife Kate was one of the 12 victims that day. A new mailer in the race for State Senate uses both of their names.

In an interview with WAVY earlier this month, Nixon criticized an ad from candidate Missy Cotter Smasal that claimed incumbent Bill DeSteph hasn’t done enough in the wake of the mass shooting.

Nixon called the ad “the lowest form of campaign advertising I have ever seen.”

Last week, the Virginia Republican Party used that quote to attack Smasal in a mailer supporting DeSteph.

Nixon says that’s dirty politics.

“You cannot gain off of someone’s sorrows and tragedies,” Nixon said in a Monday interview.

The printed mailer shows Nixon’s quote, even though he told 10 On Your Side that when he was contacted for permission to use the quote, he said no.

“It’s using my dead wife’s name. She was murdered. To see her in a campaign ad, she would be sick to her stomach. My wife would not endorse any of this; she would be very upset at being used.”

The return address on the flier’s envelope says the message was paid for by the Republican Party of Virginia and was not authorized by any candidate.

DeSteph said Tuesday morning he didn’t know about the mailer in advance and had no control over it. He says the party often sends out messages without his knowledge and he says he “prays that it turns out well” when it happens.

DeSteph said he disavows the mailer and its message, and has tried to contact the Republican Party of Virginia and will tell them to stop circulating the mailer. He says typically that type of campaign piece is not mailed more than once.

DeSteph goes on to say he would never use Nixon’s comments, name, images or other related material without his permission, but Nixon wants a public apology to him and his late wife.

“If that’s the way you want to run a campaign, then, I’m sorry. You shouldn’t be doing that, it’s wrong.”

Perhaps wrong, but not necessarily illegal. Because the quote was taken from a published WAVY report, it can be considered by some to be part of the public domain. However attorney Kevin Martingayle disagrees with that theory, and says Virginia law requires written consent, and to use someone’s name or picture without it would be similar to violating property rights.

Nixon says he wants to make it clear that he does not support either candidate – DeSteph or Smasal.

10 On Your Side reached to DeSteph to see if he disavows or denounces the flyer, whether he had prior knowledge or not. As of Monday evening, he had not responded.

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