Trudy Berry says she’s not giving up, despite being left off the ballot

Published 9:43 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2023

As of now, Trudy Berry will not be on the general election ballot in Virginia this fall. The Democratic nominee for the 9th District State Senate seat, Berry learned Tuesday afternoon that no one, from her own party or the state’s Department of Elections, will help correct a mistake made by another person. 

Berry, a citizen of Lunenburg County who is challenging incumbent Sen. Frank Ruff, performed her candidate duties by filing all the required paperwork on time. That part isn’t in question, as the Virginia Department of Elections accepted all her paperwork. However, Berry says her party’s nominating committee did not properly perform their duty to ensure that the Department of Elections received Form 527. That’s what’s holding things up. 

Berry has been denied ballot qualification in the 9th because the Department of Elections has not received a document that officially certifies her status as her party’s nominee. The problem, she says, is that her local nominating committee accidentally sent it to the wrong email address.

Late last week, Berry received a requested copy of the email that was sent, showing that the .gov portion had been left off of the email address that her nominating committee had sent to the Department of Elections.

“I called the department and verified that they received all of my forms, but not the 527,” Berry said, referring to the Party Certification of Primary Candidates form. “I also verified with my registrar that she received my Statement of Organization. All of the paperwork I was required to submit was received and in order,” she said. 

In addition, according to an email shared with the Gazette, Berry received an email from Patricia Harper-Tunley, the chair of the Lunenburg County Democrats. On April 3, Harper-Tunley wrote that her signatures had been certified and the certification notice would be submitted as required. 

‘Nothing can be done’ 

According to Berry, Clomeniea Oliver, the Chair of the nominating committee who sent the original email, was very ill at the time and passed away last Wednesday.

“Her death hasn’t been the reason for the holdup, but she cannot be consulted about her part in the nomination process,” Berry said. Oliver had turned over her duties to her Co-Chair, Patricia Harper-Tunley. Patricia verified my signatures and emailed me to tell me that they had been certified, and that certification would be submitted as required, but I don’t know why she didn’t send the certification rather than Oliver.”

On July 15, Trudy Berry submitted a letter to the Department of Elections on July 15, asking “that you allow my name to be placed on the ballot due to this error that was beyond my control and clearly the responsibility of my nominating committee Chair and Co-Chair.”

In 2021, the Board of Elections allowed Delegate Dave LaRock (R) to appear on the ballot after local party officials missed a filing deadline to formally nominate him for office.

Berry is now asking for the same.

Since that time, Berry has heard from Shyam Raman, Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Virginia. Raman wrote in an email that nothing could be done to get Berry placed on the November ballot. 

“The current situation is about the primary filing deadline back in April. There is no extension for the ELECT-527 Form that the State Board of Elections can grant,” Raman wrote. “It is an incredibly harsh outcome given the situation. There’s really nothing we’re able to do now that the Office of the Attorney General weighed in and said there isn’t an extension available for the ELECT-527 form.”

‘There is no relief provided’ 

In his email to Trudy Berry, Raman wrote: “I think we all share the desire for ballot access to be secured. Unfortunately, there is no relief provided within State Law. Kilgore, LaRock, Clint Jenkins, and even Nick Freitas had their certification paperwork turned in late by the Party. In each of those cases, the paperwork in question was specific to non-primary methods. The extension available through 24.2-511.B is specific to candidates who were nominated by a method other than a primary. In the cases of Kilgore, LaRock, and Jenkins, they were nominated in a party-run process which allowed for the 511.B clause to apply. For Freitas, they accepted the Party’s ELECT-511 form but chose to deny him ballot access for what I believe was his late ELECT-501 form.”

Berry disagrees with the decision on several levels.

“Any way you spin it, the fact is that LaRock was nominated by the primary method and his party officials failed to file the paperwork. There is no provision in state law that I can find that allows extensions to file either 527 or 511,” she said. 

The Board did not provide an extension for LaRock’s party officials to file either 527 or 511, they outright certified LaRock’s nomination in accordance with Virginia Code 24.2-511 B, which states, “Should the party chairman fail to make such certification, the State Board shall declare that the candidate is the nominee of the particular party and direct that his name be treated as if certified by the party chairman. 

“The Board should extend the same courtesy to me,” Berry said. 

Trudy Berry says she’s not giving up 

Despite the latest issue, Berry said she is not giving up on her campaign efforts. 

“Not only are they keeping a Democrat off the ballot, they are keeping a woman of color off the ballot,” Berry said. “I want the people of Senate District 9 to know that the party may not have my back, but I have theirs. I am doing all I can to make sure they have a choice on the ballot.” 

Berry said she wants the 337 constituents who signed her petitions to get her name on the ballot to know that she is thankful and still fighting for them.

“If party officials had been diligent in their jobs, if they had communicated with each other they would have certified me as the nominee for Senate District 9 in April, May at the latest, and they wouldn’t have kept embarrassing themselves with all their missteps,” Berry said.