A Tale Of Small-Town Electoral Corruption In Which All The Big Names Are ... Republican!
Is Charles Dougherty Taking The Rap For Some Well-Connected Kilgores?
By Winter Patriot on 7/27/2006, 8:44pm PT  

Guest blogged by Winter Patriot

Meet Mark Jenkins, a Republican from Gate City, Virginia, who supposedly lost the 2004 mayoral race, but who stood up for his rights, and for those of the voters, and for democracy in general, after it turned out that his opponent, incumbent Charles Dougherty, had captured nearly 90% of the absentee votes, but less than 51% of the overall total.

After the usual number of shenanigans and attempted shenanigans, the result has been overturned, and now the supposed winner faces time in prison! And --- guess what --- the people behind the shenanigans appear to have been --- are you ready for this --- well-connected Republicans!

In true blogger style, we'll start with the news...

Friday, July 21, 2006: dailypress.com
Jury convicts former Gate City mayor of election fraud

GATE CITY, Va. --- A Scott County Circuit Court jury Friday convicted a former Gate City mayor of election fraud during his disputed 2004 re-election bid and recommended a sentence of 32 days in jail and a $32,000 fine.

After hearing two days of testimony, the jury deliberated an hour and a half before finding Charles Dougherty guilty of 16 counts--eight of aiding and abetting the violation of the absentee-ballot process and eight of making a false statement on a ballot application. It then took the jury nearly two hours to determine its recommended punishment.

Prosecutors said Dougherty sought out elderly and unsophisticated voters in their homes and persuaded them to give false reasons for voting by absentee ballot. In some cases, voters said, Dougherty filled out their mail-in ballots--voting for himself in the process.

Saturday, July 22, 2006: roanoke.com
Former mayor guilty of fraud

Eight voters testified that Dougherty approached them in the weeks before the May 4, 2004, town elections with an offer: Vote for him by absentee ballot, and he would make false statements on election records explaining why they couldn't make it to the polls on Election Day.

The reasons varied --- it could be crippling arthritis for a healthy voter, an out-of-town trip that was never planned or a hospital stay that never happened --- but all of them were fabricated.

Absentee voters who were the subject of this week's trial would have swung an election that Dougherty won by just two votes. However, the fraud may have been far more pervasive; Dougherty, 55, still faces another 15 felonies related to the large number of absentee votes he claimed.
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Dougherty presented no defense. Through statements to the jury and questions to witnesses, defense attorney Carl McAfee implicated the Scott County voter registrar's office for approving the questionable absentee ballot applications.

McAfee threatened to call as a witness Willie Mae Kilgore, the county's longtime registrar, but never did.

Critics have said Kilgore uses her political connections --- her husband runs the local Republican Party, one of her sons is a state legislator and another is a former attorney general and gubernatorial candidate --- to favor her preferred candidates.

Dougherty was a frequent visitor to the registrar's office. In questions to Kilgore's sister, who used to work as a clerk in the office, Branscom wondered aloud why absentee ballot applications submitted by Dougherty were accepted despite some obvious flaws.

Tuesday, July 26, 2006: virginiastar.net
Former GC Mayor Convicted on 16 Counts of Election Fraud

“This case is about how much corruption you as representatives of this community are willing to take,” the prosecutor explained to the jury.

Dougherty was fined $2,000 on each of the 16 counts ($32,000) and ordered to serve 2 days in jail on each of the 16 counts (total of 32 days).He remains free on bond while waiting for his official sentencing.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005: roanoke.com
Residents say former mayor filled out ballots

Littrell said he signed the paperwork that Dougherty filled out. In handwriting that appears similar to that on other absentee ballot applications on file at the county courthouse, the following reasons are listed for Littrell not being able to vote in person: "crippling arthritis; confined to home; heart condition."

But, he said, "I ain't got no heart problem. I went to the doctor last week. My heart's all right."

The absentee ballot application was submitted to the Scott County registrar's office, which issued Littrell a mail-in ballot - even though the application seems to raise the obvious question of why someone with so many ailments could be working 13 hours at Food Lion.

After the ballot arrived in the mail, Littrell said, Dougherty came back to his apartment to help him vote. The way he tells it, the mayor did more than help. He filled out the ballot, voting for himself.
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In an earlier interview, Scott County registrar Willie Mae Kilgore said it is the voter's responsibility to give an honest answer when requesting permission to vote by absentee ballot.

Making a false statement on an absentee ballot application is a felony that carries up to 10 years in prison.

Branscom has said he is not comfortable bringing charges against people who were taken advantage of. To date, Dougherty is the only person charged in the investigation.
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While the charges are pending, Dougherty also will keep his job as a correctional officer at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Duffield.
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Ronald Kindle, who lost a bid for town council in the same election, said Tuesday that he believes the registrar's office should have known that something was amiss.

He and other town residents questioned whether powerful political connections will prevent the full story from ever being told in a courtroom.

Willie Mae Kilgore is the mother of twin sons, Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Scott County, and GOP gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore. Her husband is the longtime chairman of the Scott County Republican Party, and a third son heads the county economic development authority.

Sunday, February 20, 2005: roanoke.com
Small-town election, big-time trouble

Tough as it was to lose by two votes, Mark Jenkins was ready to accept defeat graciously in the May election for mayor of this mountain gap town that calls itself a city.

Then Jenkins called to congratulate incumbent Mayor Charles Dougherty. His opponent commented that they both ran a clean campaign. "That made the hair stand up on the back of my neck," Jenkins said.
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Although not named in the lawsuit, a key figure in the controversy is Willie Mae Kilgore - the voter registrar of Scott County and the mother of Jerry Kilgore, the former attorney general who is running for governor.

To Jenkins, the numbers alone seemed suspicious. About one of every five votes in the Gate City mayor's race was cast by absentee ballot. Dougherty claimed 87 percent of the absentee votes to win the election 357-355.

Saturday, August 6, 2005: roanoke.com
Mayor: Kilgore hindered probe

The mayor of Jerry Kilgore's hometown says the gubernatorial candidate hindered an investigation last year when, as attorney general, he indicated that he saw no criminal wrongdoing in a disputed Gate City election.
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Gate City Mayor Mark Jenkins, who lost the election but later got the mayor's job after challenging the results in court, said he believes Kilgore's comments to a local newspaper delayed a criminal investigation into the matter.

A July 2004 article in the Kingsport (Tenn.) Times-News quoted Kilgore as saying that while mistakes were made, "no one appears to have done anything deliberately."

Kilgore also said Gate City needed to "move on." The Republican has since stepped down as attorney general to run for governor.

Jenkins said it was inappropriate for the then-attorney general to publicly downplay a controversy that involved both his hometown and his mother, Willie Mae Kilgore, the longtime voter registrar of Scott County.
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A spokesman for the Kilgore campaign dismissed Jenkins' complaint.

"This is nothing more than a partisan attack," Tim Murtaugh said. "The mayor's bitterness is apparent, but still, it is generally considered out of bounds in polite company to attack a candidate's mother."

"They are desperate and downright rude."

"We're simply not going to dignify anything Mr. Jenkins has to say," he said. "He's clearly doing all of this for partisan reasons."

Yet Jenkins, like Kilgore, is a Republican.
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In an earlier interview, Willie Mae Kilgore said she believes criticism of her office is coming from her son's political opponents. She said it is the voters' responsibility to make truthful statements about why they need to vote by absentee ballot.

"We've always run clean elections in this office," she said.

But according to Jenkins and other critics, the registrar's office has become an arm of a powerful Kilgore family that controls the political machinery of Scott County, a solidly Republican portion of far Southwest Virginia.

Willie Mae Kilgore's husband has been the chairman of the county Republican Party for years, Jenkins said. Her other twin son, Terry Kilgore, has represented Scott County as a delegate in the General Assembly for more than a decade. A third son, John, heads the county's economic development authority.

Jenkins said the family has come to wield too much power.

"I consider myself a Republican, but I honestly don't feel like we have a Republican Party here in Scott County," he said. "It's called the Kilgorican party."

For the last word we turn to Mayor Mark Jenkins:
Loss of 2004 GC Election Started as ‘Personal’ Battle, Quickly Turned Political

I took it personally when I called the Registrar's office on May 5, 2004, the day after the town election, and was told I would have to wait until November of 2004 because the Election Board did not meet again until then. Thank you, Les Free, for being there to take the phone from Willie and for providing me the correct information to proceed with the recount and contest of the election. You are an honest man.

I took it personally when people came to me and told me they had actually been threatened harm because they had openly shown support for me in my bid for Mayor.

I took it personally when Charles Dougherty told me I wasn't going to get this thing to go anywhere because he had talked to the Attorney General and it would be stopped.

Please read the whole essay. It's very good!