Josh Throneburg. Courtesy of the campaign.

Josh Throneburg, an ordained minister and small-business owner from Charlottesville, on Tuesday claimed the nomination as the Democratic candidate for Virginia’s 5th congressional district after his opponent Andy Parker, a gun-control advocate and father of slain TV reporter Alison Parker, was disqualified for failing to submit the 1,000 valid signatures required to be on the ballot for the party’s June 21 primary. 

Shadi Ayyas also did not make the ballot, and Thomas McLellan withdrew his bid earlier this year.

In a news release, Throneburg said that he was confirmed as the district’s Democratic nominee by Patricia Harper-Tunley, Democratic Party of Virginia Committee Chair for the 5th congressional district, adding that Harper-Tunley submitted Throneburg’s nomination at 2:47 p.m. to the Virginia Department of Elections.

Andy Parker. Courtesy of Andy Parker.

Parker said in a phone interview that he was “blindsided” by the fact that his campaign did not meet the requirements to make the ballot. “Evidently they kicked out 30 percent of our petitions,” he said, adding that he had submitted 1,200 signatures. However, the Democratic Party of Virginia advises candidates to at least collect 1,500, due to potential irregularities because of redistricting, false names, or address problems on the petitions.

“We are consulting with an attorney tomorrow to find out what the hell is going on,” Parker said. Throneburg’s announcement, he said, was premature. “Josh is jumping the gun with this.”

Harper-Tunley told Cardinal News on Wednesday that Parker’s campaign had submitted a total of 1,093 petitions, of which 937 were certified under the rules set by the Virginia Department of Elections. “We had a committee of five individuals that reviewed the signatures several times to get to 1,000, but unfortunately that didn’t happen,” she said.

Some of the rejected petitions were signed but lacked the matching addresses, and others were signed by people not residing in the 5th district, Harper-Tunley said. “But due diligence was done on part of the petition committee, and the petitions were turned in at the final deadline on April 7,” she said. “We have done our part in terms of submitting the certified documents, which means that Josh Throneburg is the Democratic nominee. We are moving forward and are looking to engage our voters and remove Bob Good from the 5th district.”

Parker announced his bid to challenge Rep. Bob Good, R-Campbell County, at the end of January. Staffing his campaign with Democratic operatives from former Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s team, he managed to amass a social media audience of 60,000 Twitter followers, raising nearly $200,000 in donations.

After his daughter, a reporter with CBS affiliate WDBJ in Roanoke, and her photographer Adam Ward were shot to death live on camera in 2015 by a former station employee while conducting an interview at Smith Mountain Lake in Moneta, Parker became a nationally known crusader for gun control and, more recently, an outspoken critic of big tech companies who has taken on corporate giants like YouTube, Facebook and Google for continuing to allow footage showing Alison’s last moments to be published and shared online.

Less of a household name, Throneburg announced his candidacy more than a year ago. “As a resident of the 5th District, this race isn’t an academic exercise for me; I’m running for Congress because the people of the Fifth are my friends and neighbors, and this past year of meeting voters has cemented my resolve to be the kind of representative they need,” he said in a statement. 

Throneburg also thanked his team and the “dedicated volunteers who helped me achieve this milestone,” and the “hundreds of voters from across the 5th District who placed their trust in me when they signed our petitions.”

Republicans will pick their nominee in a May 21 nomination. Good faces a challenge from Daniel Moy.

This story was updated on Wednesday, April 13, at 10:11 a.m.

The 5th District.

Markus Schmidt

Markus Schmidt is a reporter for Cardinal News. Reach him at markus@cardinalnews.org.