Shupe

Jessie Shupe

With Jessie Shupe out of contention, the race for the Louisa district seat on the board of supervisors is open again with a new filing deadline of Sept. 6.

Shupe withdrew his candidacy on July 18, saying his superiors at the Virginia Department of Transportation had decided it would be a conflict of interest for him to serve on the board.

“I had to do this to protect my career,” Shupe said. “I’ve got a family to take care of.”

Shupe was nominated by the Louisa Republican Committee to run for the Louisa district seat at a mass meeting at Louisa County Library on May 22.

A provision of state law says that when a party nominee withdraws from a race, any political party that did not oppose that candidate is entitled to nominate someone. People unaffiliated with a party can also run for the office. The law says candidates have until 60 days before the election to declare they are running. That leaves enough time for ballots to be printed with the candidates’ names.

As was the case for Shupe, any party nominee can skip the process of gathering 125 signatures to qualify for the ballot, an advantage not available to independent candidates.

Eric Purcell is currently the only candidate in the race, having filed his paperwork in January. He is running as an independent. 

Shupe said he had spoken prior to the Republican mass meeting to his immediate supervisor at VDOT, who did not indicate there would be a conflict.

But this month VDOT’s human resources division determined otherwise, Shupe said.

“It’s kind of weird how it played out, to be honest,” he said. 

Shupe works as a contract analyst. It’s unclear if his job could include review of contracts with Louisa County. Supervisors vote on numerous contracts with outside parties, most of which are private vendors. But the board also votes on numerous matters that involve VDOT, such as the annual vote on the six-year secondary road plan.

Shupe was a member of Mineral Town Council when he took the job at VDOT in October 2018. At the time, he said, his employer did not raise an objection to his council role. Both the town and county conduct business with the state agency, though the county’s role is greater because of its much larger size.

Occasional conflicts of interest are not entirely unusual for supervisors and other local officials. They typically announce they have a conflict but are not obligated to abstain from voting on these matters. Purcell, the independent candidate for the Louisa seat, had conflicts at times when he chaired the Louisa County Planning Commission and property his family owns was discussed. John Disosway, the Mineral district commissioner, recently recused himself from a vote on a matter involving his employer, Dominion Energy.

“I’m definitely disappointed, but maybe something down the road will enable me to try again,” Shupe said.

Carolyn Daughters, who was one of four candidates for the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District board, has also withdrawn her name. She was not running as a party candidate.