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VA Election 2024
A voter in Virginia casts a ballot in March’s presidential primaries. Kevin Wolf/AP

Local Virginia Democrats Allege a Congressional Candidate’s Behavior Led to the Creation of a Sexual Harassment Policy

The local Democrats did not detail any allegations but accused a leading Democratic congressional candidate of “inappropriate behavior.”

Four current and former high-ranking members of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee came forward Monday to accuse Dan Helmer, one of the candidates running in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District’s tight Democratic primary, of behavior that led to the local party instituting a sexual harassment policy.

Former LCDC chairs Avram Fechter, Lissa Savaglio, Alfonso Nevarez and current Deputy Chair David Bauer said in a draft press release obtained by NOTUS to be released later Monday that they are making this claim as individuals and not on behalf of the organization or a campaign. They said that they are coming forward now after being asked questions by media outlets. There are 12 candidates running in the Democratic primary, and two of the senior members involved in the statement have endorsed different candidates.

“We are some of the primary drafters of LCDC’s Sexual Harassment Policy, held various LCDC positions at the time of its adoption, and can attest that, for us, Helmer’s inappropriate behavior with our member was the primary motivation behind our involvement in adding a sexual harassment policy to LCDC’s By-Laws,” Fechter said in the statement, on behalf of the officials.

The officials did not detail any specific allegations against Helmer.

“These are baseless claims with no specific details from six years ago,” Helmer said in an emailed statement. “They have been made for the first time a week before an election by people who have endorsed my opponents. I’m proud of my record standing up against harassment.”

Fechter told NOTUS the policy was a “direct result” of Helmer’s alleged actions.

The allegation comes soon before the highly competitive and expensive primary. Rep. Jennifer Wexton is stepping down from the seat after being diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy, which she described as “a kind of ‘Parkinson’s on steroids.’” The primary is June 18, but early voting started June 8.

Helmer is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and previously ran for Congress in 2018, losing to Wexton in the primary.

The alleged incident that led to the organization instituting the policy occurred in 2018, Fechter said, and the LCDC started working on getting the policy instituted the following year. No further actions were taken by the LCDC, Fechter said, because the alleged victim was not willing to go forward publicly.

The LCDC’s policy defines sexual harassment and details the process of what occurs after an alleged incident. The policy would not have led to any disciplinary actions with Helmer because he was not and is not a member of the committee, which only takes action against members. Fechter said that Helmer is not eligible to join the committee because he doesn’t live in Loudoun County.

This story has been updated with statement from the Helmer campaign.

Tara Kavaler is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.