Bill Card is the chairman of the Prince William County Republican Committee, the guy “in the know,” for Prince William county politics. But on November 6, he was caught off guard.
“I got a picture, sent to my cellphone at about 5:45 in the morning of the election,” said Card, of a “Republicans for Stanley Bender” sign.
Card said the signs were present at most Prince William County precincts.
The problem is, Stanley Bender was the independent candidate for school board chairman — not the republican candidate.
The signs shocked Card, and they shocked the actual republican candidate Alyson Satterwhite. Based on an affidavit — they also appear to have shocked Bender.
The sign cited the Political Action Committee, or PAC, “Republicans for Stanley Bender.”
Both Card and Don Shaw, the chairman of the Prince William County Democratic Committee, claim the PAC is linked to Harry Wiggins.
Shaw said he filed a FOIA request with the Virginia Department of Elections and “received confirmation that Harry Wiggins is the founder of the PAC.”
Wiggins is the former chairman of the Prince William County Democratic Committee.
After consulting with lawyers, Prince William County Republicans learned they had to leave the signs up throughout the entire day on election day.
“It was a great source of frustration,” Card admitted.
To add insult to injury, school board chairman elections in the county are technically non-partisan. Though parties traditionally throw their support behind a candidate — like Republicans chose to support Satterwhite, and Democrats opted to support Barbur Lateef — there are no R’s, D’s or I’s on the ballot.
“It’s easy to be confused,” Card said.
Lateef received 47.7% of the vote. Alyson Satterwhite received 41.6% of the vote, and Stanley Bender received 9.6% of the vote.
Card called the ordeal, a “game day stab at the truth to divert votes.” Prince William County Republicans, under his leadership, submitted a letter to the State Board of Elections, and Prince William County General Registrar, calling for an investigation.
They also submitted an affidavit, where Bender stated he had not given anyone authorization to create the PAC, nor did he have any prior knowledge of it.
Under Virginia law, a PAC that includes the name of a candidate in its own name must either secure the written authorization of that candidate, or provide notice to the candidate by certified mail at least 21 days prior to filing its statement of organization.
“This just wasn’t an attack on Alyson Satterwhite although she’s a victim, you know Stanley Bender’s a victim in this. You know, this is an attack on the sanctity of the electoral process and something has to be done, and the state of Virginia’s gotta step up to the plate and make that happen,” Card said.
Shaw said the PWCDC had “no knowledge of Mr.Wiggins actions before the signs appeared on Election Day and had we been aware, we would have taken steps to stop him.”
Shaw said he will be calling a meeting of PWDC leadership in December, where Wiggins will be asked to display “his version of events.”
“After which we will deliberate and determine what action should be taken by the committee,” he said.
When asked, in good fun, if Card thought Wiggins had become a Bender fan, he laughed — citing the Virginia Public Access Project, which shows Wiggins donated over $480 to “Lateef for Prince William County School Board Chair – Barbur.”
He also pulled out his cellphone to show a screenshot photo from Mike Beaty’s Facebook page.
Beaty is a photographer, whose online accounts are jam-packed with photos of notable democrats.
His default on Facebook Wednesday featured Terry McAuliffe — his Flickr, Hillary Clinton. The photo Card showcased was labeled by Beaty “Babur Lateef Victory celebration.”
In the front of the photo, stands Wiggins. Card believes the photo is evidence Wiggins attended Lateef’s victory party.
Wednesday, Wiggins was no where to be found. After calls and texts, a WDVM reporter headed to his home, a private driveway, with signs, indicating visitors were unwelcome.
Lateef did not respond for comment Wednesday.
Shaw said he could not meet in person for the next two weeks — but gave statements via Facebook messenger, and was working to arrange a phone call.
Bender, reached out to a reporter, following requests for comment, at airtime Wednesday.
We will update this piece with remarks as appropriate.