Petition calls for senator’s recall

Published 3:31 pm Monday, June 22, 2020

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Hundreds of people this past weekend in Western Tidewater signed a petition demanding Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-18) be recalled from the Virginia General Assembly. Both the organizers of the petition and those who put their signatures on it believe Lucas has misused her authority.

The specific incident that’s inspired this move stems from June 10 in downtown Portsmouth when she joined protestors wanting a Confederate monument taken down. Her presence was recorded live at the time and posted on social media.

In the fact sheet that was provided to potential signers, among the claims are that Lucas told the Portsmouth Police to not arrest any protestors, and that she knew protestors intended to vandalize or destroy the statuary. Further, “Senator Lucas knew, that when she entered the area, her actions would escalate the aggression of the protestors.”

During the demonstration, a man was severely injured by a part of the monument that fell.

In reaction to what was seen and reported, several residents in Isle of Wight County and Southampton County, which are included in Lucas’s district, decided to create the petition. Among those in the former is Kristopher J. Coughlin, who told the paper via email:

“I first got involved with the recall petition signing after I watched the video of the riot that occurred at the Portsmouth City statue, I was appalled by Sen. Lucus’ actions at the riot. It was her actions that prevented the police from performing their duties to keep the protest under control and it set the tone for the protest. When an elected official tells you can do whatever you would like to the statue without any recourse from the police the mob mentality takes over. The statue would have never fallen on Chris Green had the police been allowed to intervene when the protesters first started to damage the statues. The senator knew that the statues were scheduled to be removed after July 1, 2020.”

Coughlin continued, “Once the news started to spread about what transpired in Portsmouth I saw the growing concern online for her actions, I decided instead of driving to Brunswick County to sign the recall I would host my own signing. We collected 108 signatures, we checked every person’s address to verify that they lived in the 18th District. We unfortunately had to turn away approximately 25 people after verifying their address was not in the 18th district. Everyone that came to the Courthouse that day came there with the intention to have Sen. Lucus removed from office because of her egregious behavior.”

Organizers in Southampton included Chris Cornwell Sr. and Tommy Potter. Through social media such as Facebook, word got around that they were collecting signatures. Cornwell said Tim Anderson, an attorney of Virginia Beach, is the main organizer of the movement to recall Lucas.

After explaining what happened and outlining some of the reasons, such as those stated above, Cornwell said, “She did wrong.”

In a statement emailed later to the newspaper, Potter wrote, “Sen. Lucas failed the citizens in her district by inciting a riot and using her position to hamper law enforcement. Our representatives are expected to uphold the law and be a mediator in times of crisis not fan This recall effort isn’t about statues and their status in today’s society. That’s for our elected officials to determine in the proper venues. This recall effort is about our elected leaders being just that: leaders.”

On Saturday at Shands Park in Courtland, they and two other volunteers were busy from around 8:30 to 10 a.m. speaking to people and getting names on the petition.

“Get that lady out of office,” said Michael Wolfe, who signed on Saturday. “She not representing people correctly.”

Beth Kefler said, “Things have gotten out of hand. It [the demonstration] became violent very quickly. It was handled incorrectly. Sen. Lucas certainly helped to incite what transpired. That’s not what our leaders are there for.”

Another woman driving by told Cornwell, “Thank you for doing this.”

He told the paper earlier this week that they collected approximately 350 signatures in that hour and a half time block.

“Another drive was conducted at the Ivor ball field on Sunday, collecting an approximate additional 50 signatures with people traveling from all ends of our county, Isle of Wight, and quite a few from Suffolk,” he said. “Additional drives are in the works … Though they are still filtering in from all over the 18th, it is believed that to date several thousand signatures have already been obtained towards the recall effort. Many thanks to all of those that came out to support this noble effort.”

The petitioners need 4,600-4,700 signatures before the matter can go to judicial authorities.

Lucas’ reaction has been reported in other media, stating that the accusations being made have no merit, and that she’ll get through the ordeal.