Va. Senate candidate draws heat for small-business legal dispute

Question of the Day

Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

View results

A Northern Virginia state Senate candidate who has emerged as a contender in a race that could give Democrats an unlikely victory has come under fire for his record as a small-business owner.

Shawn Mitchell, a candidate in the newly drawn District 13 in Prince William and Loudoun counties, recently settled a messy legal dispute with his former employer over claims that he breached trade secrets and violated a noncompete clause when starting a small business in 2010.

The dispute was settled under seal, and Mr. Mitchell has declined to answer questions about the charges despite emphasizing on the campaign trail his record as a business owner.

Mr. Mitchell announced his intention to run in June when the seat appeared beyond reach in the Republican-leaning district. But after Dick Black, a staunchly conservative former delegate who irked members of both parties by sending lawmakers plastic fetus models before a crucial abortion vote, emerged victorious in last month’s primary, Democrats saw an opportunity to secure a win that would in large part help them preserve their narrow majority in the Senate.

Now Mr. Mitchell, a combat veteran and owner and founder of a home ventilation and air conditioning, plumbing, generator, and solar company, is working to make the race competitive.

CAMPAIGN BUSINESS: Shawn Mitchell uses his business, Modern Mechanical in Ashburn, Va., to announce the endorsements of state Sens. Louise L. Lucas (left) and Mary Margaret Whipple in his bid for a Virginia Senate seat. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)

Enlarge Photo

CAMPAIGN BUSINESS: Shawn Mitchell uses his business, Modern Mechanical in Ashburn, Va., ... more >

A business mentality

Since the primary, Mr. Mitchell has won the support of key party leaders and local business groups.

The Prince William Association of Realtors and the Dulles Area Association of Realtors have endorsed Mr. Mitchell, and former Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe appeared with him at a Sept. 18 fundraiser.

Mr. Mitchell’s business background has been key to his campaign pitch about fiscal responsibility.

“I understand how to build a successful organization, create jobs locally and look at the good, bad and ugly of a profit-and-loss statement to make important decisions for my business,” Mr. Mitchell said at a recent campaign appearance. “We need that type of business mentality in the state Senate as we look at more budget deficits in our immediate future.”

Last week, he picked up high-profile endorsements from retiring state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, Arlington Democrat, and state Sen. Louise L. Lucas, Southampton Democrat, at an event at his Ashburn, Va.-based company.

“I have no doubt that his strong business background, decorated military service and fresh perspective will be an asset to this new district,” Mrs. Whipple said.

But Mr. Mitchell’s 17-month-old company, Modern Mechanical LLC, spent much of its first year in litigation. According to Virginia court records, Mr. Mitchell was sued by his former company, Parrish Services, almost immediately after forming Modern Mechanical.

The sides agreed to a settlement. Although the settlement is sealed, hundreds of pages of documents detailing the complaints remain unsealed.

Erik Frias, an attorney for Mr. Mitchell, said he could not discuss the case beyond what was outlined in the court documents. He said the parties agreed to a settlement before the scheduled March 7 trial.

Story Continues →

View Entire Story

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

blog comments powered by Disqus
TWT Video Picks