Home 2023 Elections Is VA Del. Buddy Fowler (R) Possibly Violating Both Campaign Finance and...

Is VA Del. Buddy Fowler (R) Possibly Violating Both Campaign Finance and Elections Law?

"In sum, there are serious questions about the legality of Del. Fowler’s candidacy for Virginia House District 59 arising from documentation provided by Del. Fowler himself"

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By a contributor who wishes to remain anonymous. Oh, by the way, it’s fascinating how much attention the media’s given to one Democratic House of Delegates candidate’s “scandal” (involving sex videos) versus how little they’ve given to Buddy Fowler’s residency issues or to several really, really bad Republican House of Delegates candidates (multiple extremists, insurrectionists, domestic abusers/committed violence against women, etc.). Gee, wonder why that is?

In April 2022, the Richmond Times-Dispatch published an article on the race for the Virginia House of Delegates, 59th District seat that included the issue of Del. Buddy Fowler’s residency. In the article, Del. Fowler claimed to have moved to an address that is within the 59th and to have registered to vote there, but in a February 2023 FEC filing, he gave his Ashland address of 12369 Traylor Springs Lane as his residence. This address is located in the 60th District. Likewise, Del. Fowler provides the Traylor Springs Lane address on Schedule F of his first quarter Finance Reportof 2023 (see Addendum, pg. 4; the record can be found by searching here). Del. Fowler also freely acknowledged at the time that he and his wife still owned the Traylor Springs Lane property; as of October 15, 2023, that was still the case (see Addendum, pg. 4; the record can be found by searching here). The Fowlers have deep ties there, as the adjacent land has been in the family of Mrs. Patsy Fowler (née Traylor) for years, and the very name of the lane reflects that. If Del. Fowler is living at the Traylor Springs Lane address, as the FEC filing and the Finance Report indicate, he is in violation of campaign law, and if he has cast a vote using a different address, of election law. As some recent letters to the editor show, not all voters believe that he has, in fact, moved; for example, see here.

The most recent Statement of Organization for Del. Fowler’s campaign gives the same Beaverdam address for both his residence and his campaign office: 13029 Old Ridge Road (open “CandidateCampaignCommittee”). This address is also apparently that of his district office. However, Del. Fowler, in Schedule E of his February 2023 Statement of Economic Interest (SOEI), which requires the listing of real estate assets exclusive of the primary residence, lists only “Land” in Hanover that’s owned by his wife.. If the Traylor Springs Lane address is not his primary residence, Del. Fowler should have listed it. But if it is, as many suspect, his primary residence, then he is quite correct in not listing it.

In addition, it’s more than a little suspect that Del. Fowler’s longtime legislative aide, Oriana (Dale) Hargrove Alderman, is the owner of the small cottage at 13029 Old Ridge Road in the 59th District where Del. Fowler claims to reside and have his district and campaign offices. This cottage is found on the grounds of Cool Water, a historic 105-acre farm that has been in the Hargrove family for years; Mrs. Alderman resides at 13033 Old Ridge Road, the address of the original 18th-century house at Cool Water. Mrs. Alderman is the daughter of the late Frank Hargrove, Sr., who represented the 55th District in the General Assembly for 28 years and whom Del. Fowler served as an aide. Her brother, Frank Hargrove, Jr., is the Clerk of the Hanover Circuit Court and he has endorsed Del. Fowler. In other words, the ties are long-standing, strong, and numerous.

Del. Fowler’s Finance Reports show that from April 2022 to May 2023, his campaign committee paid $500-907/month to Woodside LLC for office rent and utilities; the principal address of this LLC is 13033 Old Ridge Road, Mrs. Alderman’s home address. From June to August 2023 Del. Fowler’s Finance Reports reveal that Del. Fowler was paying Mrs. Alderman directly at the 13033 Old Ridge Road address. Note that in the earlier months, the utilities are segregated out and they are not nearly high enough to cover the costs of two people residing there full time.

In October 2022, months after the Fowlers are supposed to have moved to the Beaverdam address, Mrs. Alderman sought permission from the Hanover Board of Supervisors to rent the venue up to 50 times annually for weddings and other events. For this meeting, Mrs. Alderman provided 56 pages of detailed documentation of her property, and at no point mentioned the presence of tenants (see pgs. 284-340 here; the meeting itself was recorded here–start at 2 hrs. 9 mins.). Some neighbors protested, worried about congestion and noise; they attested that music from Mrs. Alderman’s daughter’s October 1 wedding could be heard 1-1/2 miles away and vibrations felt in houses 1/2 mile away. It must have been intolerable for the Fowlers if they were actually living on the premises. The Board granted Mrs. Alderman permission but restricted the number of events to no more than two per month. It seems unlikely that the Fowlers would choose to live where they might be blasted out of their beds up to 24 times a year, and the FEC filing, the first-quarter 2023 Finance Report, and the SOEI indicate that they did not.

Finally, the Fowlers put up two postings on Facebook—deleted after questions about Del. Fowler’s residency started to arise in Ashland—showing them enjoying the yard at their home on Traylor Springs Lane in the 60th District, long after Del. Fowler claims they had moved to Beaverdam. In addition, an April 2023 Facebook posting of Del Fowler’s grandsons at the Traylor Springs Lane house shows a welcome sign that is partly obscured but says something like “Welcome to the Fowler Home.”

Besides submitting LTEs, numerous citizens have submitted inquiries to the Hanover Registrar’s Office, the Virginia State Board of Elections, and the Office of the Virginia Attorney General. Both Gov. Youngkin and AG Miyares have endorsed Del. Fowler, and both have also voiced strong support for election integrity, yet the only response to citizen requests for an investigation has come from the Hanover Registrar, who also forwarded the inquiry to the Hanover Commonwealth’s Attorney. The CA, Ramon E. Chalkley III, responded that he had engaged Hanover Sheriff Hines to investigate Mr. Fowler’s residency. He said that Sheriff Hines had secured four documents demonstrating Del. Fowler’s residency on Mrs. Hargrove Alderman’s property, and that the four documents “satisfied” him that Del. Fowler lives where he is claiming to in the 59th District. The legitimacy of this investigation is dubious. Mr. Chalkley did not describe or produce these documents. Furthermore, Sheriff Hines has endorsed Mr. Fowler in this race and hence has a serious conflict of interest and no business conducting any such investigation; indeed, he should have recused himself.3

A FOIA request for the documents that the Hanover County Sheriff’s and Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Offices procured and reviewed has shown that the documents are the following: 1. Del. Fowler’s driver’s license with his alleged new address on it; 2. Del. Fowler’s voter registration card with his alleged new address on it; 3. a copy of a check from Mr. Fowler’s campaign checkbook, not his personal checkbook, with his district office address on it (it is the same as his alleged new residential address); 4. a signed lease that expired as of December 31, 2022 for an address that is NOT the address on Old Ridge Road where Mr. Fowler and his wife are claiming to live. Furthermore, the lease indicates that the property is for “residential” purposes only, yet Del. Fowler is claiming the same address for his residence and his district and campaign offices. Hence, none of the documents provide proof of residency. The first two list his residency but do not prove it (Virginia Code acknowledges the possibility of providing a false address for a driver’s license by counting it as a Class 2 misdemeanor) and the other two do not even do that. The lease, in fact, goes some distance to disproving residency. It’s hard to imagine how a County Sheriff and Commonwealth’s Attorney longtime chief law enforcement officers for the County—could have conducted such a shoddy investigation and been satisfied by these documents.

In sum, there are serious questions about the legality of Del. Fowler’s candidacy for Virginia House District 59 arising from documentation provided by Del. Fowler himself:

– the February 2023 FEC filing;
– the first quarter 2023 Finance Report;
– the February 2023 SOEI;
– the expired lease.

With the first two, Del. Fowler lists the Traylor Springs Lane address as his own. With the third, he does not list the property as an asset which, if it is his primary residence as some suspect, is the correct thing to do. The lease is not for the property where Del. Fowler is claiming residency, and is long expired in any case. There has not been a thorough and objective investigation of this situation, merely a cursory glance given by political allies. Surely the citizens of HD-59 deserve better than that.

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