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A Republican running to be Virginia’s next lieutenant governor has filed a lawsuit to find out who sent a homophobic robotext referring to him as “a gay Democrat” to delegates ahead of the Virginia GOP’s nominating convention on Saturday, May 8.
The lawsuit, filed by Del. Glenn Davis (R-Virginia Beach) in Norfolk Circuit court, seeks $100,000 in nominal and compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages against an unknown defendant, labeled “Jane Doe,” for defamation.
The lawsuit also identifies the registered user of the phone number from which the text was sent, a Minnesota-based telecommunications company called Onvoy, and asks the court to force Onvoy to reveal who paid for the robotexts.
The text sent out last week showed a photo of Davis, clad in a rainbow-colored shirt, at a PrideFest event in Hampton Roads, with text attacking Davis for supporting protections for transgender children in schools.
The text also touted one of Davis’s opponents, former Del. Tim Hugo (R-Clifton) as “the only conservative running for Lt. Governor,” and asked delegates to this year’s GOP convention to help Davis “come out of the closet” by refusing to rank him on Saturday.
Davis and Hugo are currently running in a six-person field that features Fairfax businessman Puneet Ahluwalia, Air Force veteran and defense contractor Lance Allen, businesswoman Maeve Rigler and Winsome Sears, a former state delegate.
Davis, who has been married to his wife, Chelle, a GOP activist, for 16 years, said he “unapologetically supports equal treatment for the LGBTQ community” in the lawsuit. However, the complaint argues, “his support of the community does not give an anonymous Defendant authority to send text messages to voters labeling him as ‘GAY.'”
The lawsuit says it’s unclear who sent out the text messages, although the image used in the text was previously used on a mailer from the Hugo campaign disparaging Davis as “no Republican.” The Hugo campaign has denied it is in any way associated with the robotext, condemning the messages as “ridiculous and offensive.”
“We hope the Davis campaign is able to find out who was behind it,” the Hugo campaign said in a statement to The Washington Post referencing the text.
Davis had previously criticized Hugo for employing a homophobic attack by using the photo of him in the rainbow shirt in the original mailer — which did not go as far as the subsequent robotext — saying that “coincidence only goes so far.”
Dustin Rhodes, Hugo’s campaign manager, defended its past criticism of Davis for supporting Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and for voting to allow DREAMers, or undocumented immigrants brought to this country as children, to be eligible for in-state tuition at Virginia colleges and universities. Rhodes told Richmond-based ABC affiliate WRIC that the image was pulled from Davis’s public Facebook page.
“Accusations that it was anything else are nothing more than an attempt to distract voters from the fact that Glenn supported Obamacare expansion and voted this year to give taxpayer funded tuition to illegal immigrants,” Rhodes said regarding the original mailer from the Hugo campaign.
In the lawsuit, Davis notes that the robotexts have defamed him, writing: “Since the text message was sent, the Plaintiff has received several calls and communications from third parties, including the media that has reported on it, that the subject text message caused harm to the reputation of the Plaintiff to potential voters in various parts of Virginia so as to lower his electability and standing in the estimation of the community and to attempt to deter third person voters from associating or dealing with him.”
“If bad actions are allowed to go without repercussions, we will never see honesty, integrity, & civil discourse return to GOP politics,” Davis said in a tweet announcing the lawsuit.
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