The man who was, for a short time, Virginia Beach’s first openly gay city councilman has vowed to keep fighting. But this is the latest in a long line of obstacles in Nygaard’s path to political office.
Less than two months after he was seated on Virginia Beach’s City Council, David Nygaard’s time as a councilman came to an end. This happened after a panel of Circuit Court judges ruled that Nygaard’s claim of residency within his particular district was invalid, and that he did not plan to live in an apartment he rented before announcing his campaign.
Nygaard was disheartened by the ruling, but pledged to continue working to have a voice in Virginia Beach’s city government. “When I moved into the Beach district, it was because I felt a deep desire to serve my fellow citizens as a member of City Council,” he wrote in a Facebook post shortly after the decision was made public.
Moving to Virginia Beach for the purpose of running for office had been one of the reasons the panel of judges nullified his win; in the post, Nygaard did not deny that he had moved for that purpose. “While I disagree with the logic of the court’s ruling, I respect their authority and the due process that I was afforded,” he wrote on Facebook. “Moving to dedicate your life to public service should not disqualify you from serving.”
Nygaard also expressed confidence that he’d get another shot at the City Council seat he’s been forced to vacate. “Soon a special election date will be set and I will be fighting to keep our seat at the table,” he wrote. “Consider my hat already in the ring.”
However, the timeline for that special election remains uncertain. Until the date of the election is set, city council will choose someone to fill the spot on a temporary basis.
The lawsuit that led to Nygaard being removed from office was filed by John Uhrin, who previously held the council seat before the November 2018 election that saw Nygaard prevail by less than 200 votes in a four-way race against Uhrin, Richard Kowalewitch, and John Coker.
The margin was below the theshold for a recount, which Uhrin quickly called for. The result of the recount saw Nygaard prevail again — but by that time, Uhrin had filed suit over Nygaard’s place of residence during the campaign.
Uhrin expressed his satisfaction over the verdict when speaking to Virginia Beach’s WTKR. Asked about those who have tagged him a sore loser due to his recount demands and this lawsuit, Uhrin told WTKR, “I would agree with anyone that that’s not a great way to do it, but if I wouldn’t have taken action we would’ve had someone gaming the system.”
Nygaard’s removal from office marked the second time in a 24-hour period that an openly gay Virginia Beach elected official was removed from office; last Thursday, Joel McDonald was removed from the Virginia Beach School Board, again due to a question of his residence within the district he was elected to represent.
How the embattled Nygaard campaign for Virginia Beach City Council will ultimately resolve itself remains open to question. However, regardless of how everything shakes out, the process continues to be a messy one for the man who still hopes to be Virginia Beach’s first openly gay city councilman.
Photo by Eric Hause