Tuesday, December 5, 2023

New lawsuit seeks special election and disqualification of candidate

VIRGINIA BEACH — Another lawsuit has been filed in the aftermath of the 2018 City Council elections, this time a petition to void a winner’s candidacy and have a special election

Richard Kowalewitch, commonly known as “RK,” filed paperwork in Virginia Beach Circuit Court, contesting the November election for the Beach District City Council seat, according to his court filing.

Kowalewitch claims David Nygaard — who beat Kowalewitch and incumbent Councilman John Uhrin, and is also engaged in a recount with Uhrin — lied about residing in the Beach District and should be disqualified as a result.

“He didn’t have the right to serve,” Kowalewitch said. “He wasn’t a legal resident in the district he ran.”

Nygaard described Kowalewitch’s lawsuit as “frivolous” and Kowalewitch as “delusional in some ways.” He said he thinks the lawsuit is Kowalewitch’s attempt to circumvent the voters’ will.

“A candidate that runs for office needs to be mature enough to accept defeat without trying to blow up the whole system with frivolous lawsuits,” Nygaard said.

In his lawsuit, Kowalewitch asked the court to disqualify Nygaard and schedule a runoff election in which Uhrin and Kowalewitch — who placed second and third, respectively, in the November race against Nygaard — be the only two candidates permitted on the ballot.

In a phone interview with Southside Daily Thursday, Kowalewitch described how he came to believe that Nygaard was not a resident of the Beach District.

“On Aug. 6, I received phone calls from two different people claiming that Nygaard didn’t live at the apartment at 509 20th St.,” Kowalewitch said.

That’s the Oceanfront address Nygaard used on his City Council candidacy paperwork. Nygaard also has a residence in the Lynnhaven District of Virginia Beach.

Kowalewitch said he lived down the street from Nygaard’s 20th Street apartment, and went to the address to look around.

“The grass was knee-deep, there were five newspapers on the doorstep, the apartment was empty,” Kowalewitch said. “There was no trash in the trashcans outside. No one was living there, clear as day.”

Kowalewitch also said he spoke with neighbors, who said they did not believe anyone lived there. Those neighbors were not immediately available for comment for this story.

Nygaard, however, was unequivocal in his response to Kowalewitch’s claims.

“It’s not true” Nygaard said, who also denied moving furniture into the apartment after Kowalewitch made his claims public in August. “And what kind of credible candidate is creeping around looking inside people’s windows?”

Related story: City councilman sues opponent, alleging he did not live in district

Nygaard accused Kowalewitch on Facebook of stalking him on Aug. 7, and said he later moved to a different Oceanfront apartment because of a lack of security and “mold issues” in the 20th Street residence.

Kowalewitch said he took his complaints to the Virginia Beach Election Registrar’s office, who told him to contact the office of Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle. A prosecutor investigated Kowalewitch’s claims and concluded there was insufficient evidence a crime had been committed by Nygaard.

While Nygaard said he believes the recount he faces against Uhrin “is appropriate, especially when you have an election that is so close,” the challenges to his legitimacy as a candidate cross a line.

“It is dangerous to our democracy when losing candidates question the integrity of our system and the hundreds of people that make our election system work,” Nygaard said.

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