PITTSBORO — Ten candidates filed for seats representing Chatham in the 2022 elections at the Chatham County Board of Elections before filing was halted and the primary election delayed until May by the North Carolina Supreme Court due to gerrymandering lawsuits on Dec. 8.
Filing for the March 2022 primary was originally set to start at noon Monday, Dec. 6, and end at noon on Friday, Dec. 17, but was halted on Dec. 8 for all candidates — not just for primaries using disputed maps — due to ongoing litigation of the state’s new redistricting maps.
Now, the state's primary elections could be delayed again — this time until June 7 — following a bill passed by the General Assembly on Wednesday that now must go to the governor’s desk. The move was planned by Senate Republicans, the Raleigh News & Observer reported Monday, and would give the Republican-majority state legislature more time to redraw the state’s political district maps if the N.C. Supreme Court rules them unconstitutional.
Many state Democrats, including Gov. Roy Cooper, criticized the bill, and on Wednesday, Democratic lawmakers voted against it. Though Cooper criticized the bill, he hasn't explicitly said he will veto it.
On Jan. 11, three superior court judges declined to strike down the congressional and General Assembly districts enacted by the Republican-controlled legislature in November. Later that evening, the State Board of Elections said candidate filing for the 2022 primary and rescheduled municipal elections would resume at 8 a.m. on Feb. 24 and end at noon March 4. Those municipal elections, originally set to take place in November 2021, were pushed back due to the incorporation of delayed Census results.
But following the BOE’s announcement, the state’s Supreme Court said last Friday it would hear lawyers’ arguments in pending redistricting litigation in a virtual hearing the morning of Feb. 2. This date gives the state Supreme Court little time to rule and keep the already once-delayed May 17 primary on schedule. (Primaries for November elections usually take place in March.)
Sen. Ralph Hise, a top Republican, said Monday the current schedule “is an extremely short time frame that will cause unnecessary confusion and chaos,” the N&O reported.
District maps would need to be finalized no later than Feb. 18 for an “orderly preparation” for the May 17 primary, the State Board of Elections previously said in court filings, adding that delaying the initial primary date could impact the ability to hold run-off elections before November. If the state’s supreme court does strike down the new districts after the Feb. 2 hearing, state law says the General Assembly must receive at least two weeks to remedy maps before another plan can be imposed by the court.
Republican lawmakers want to make sure they have more time to redraw maps if they are ordered to. State Democrats criticized the Republicans’ efforts to delay the primary, the N&O reported, saying the move seems to pressure the Supreme Court into letting lawmakers redraw the map themselves if the maps are overturned, rather than the court hiring an outside expert to do it.
In Chatham, Board of Elections Director Pandora Paschal confirmed hearing of the potential second delay of the primary, but said, “We are moving forward with planning to conduct the Primary Election(s) as scheduled on May 17, 2022, until we hear otherwise.”
If Cooper signs House Bill 605 into law, the primary would take place June 7 and any potential runoff elections would be held later in the summer.
The 2022 filing period was fraught from its beginning.
Prior to the Dec. 8 order which halted the filing period and delayed the election, an order to temporarily block filing for the U.S. House, N.C. Senate and N.C. House races was filed on Dec. 6 shortly before filing was set to begin. That order was reversed by that evening, allowing filing to take place for another two days before the primary was delayed until May due due gerrymandering lawsuits.
All of the new maps would give Republicans a sizable advantage in future elections even if the two parties roughly split the statewide vote 50-50, outside political analysis shows, with the new Congressional map expected to give Republicans a 10-4 or 11-3 advantage in 2022. Those who sued have alleged the maps use unlawful partisan gerrymandering and dilute the voting power of Black residents in many districts.
Republican lawmakers said the process to create the new maps was transparent and fair. The judges unanimously wrote Jan. 11 that the evidence presented in a trial the week prior showed the district lines “are a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting,” but that such partisan gerrymandering is not unconstitutional.
“Voting rights and fair representation lost a battle today in an admittedly predictable judicial decision, but the fight continues and we should not be discouraged,” Sen. Natalie Murdock, Chatham’s Democratic incumbent representative in 2022 under the new maps, tweeted after the court’s Jan. 11. decision. “Thank you to those litigating on the side of justice as the case for fair maps now heads to the NC Supreme Court.”
Many advocates and state Democrats have urged new, fairer district lines to be drawn.
Cooper previously said that the Dec. 8 court order “restore(d) faith in the rule of law.”
“...it is necessary for the Court to rule on the constitutionality of these unfair districts before the next election,” he said.
Rep. Robert Reives II, Chatham’s Democratic representative in the N.C. House, said in a release before filing was first resumed that N.C. residents deserve fair district lines and that the maps passed by legislature last month “were generally viewed as the most gerrymandered in the country.”
“I appreciate the thoughtful consideration of last week’s three judge panel and our state’s appellate judges,” he said at the time. “My hope is that this process will lead to better maps and a better opportunity for voters to participate in the democratic process.”
On Wednesday, Reives also raised issue with the Republican-selected June 7 primary date, pointing out is the last day of class for many schools, which are often using as polling sites. (June 7 is the last full day of class for most Chatham County Schools students; June 8 is the last day, but an early release.)
The trial court presiding over the Jan. 11 decision had a 2-1 Republican majority, and its ruling relied heavily on a 5-4 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019, the N&O reported, when that court’s conservative majority reached a similar conclusion. The N.C. Supreme Court, which will hear the Feb. 2 appeal, has a 4-3 Democratic majority.
In Chatham, six Democratic candidates filed for local contests on the first day of filing, with two more candidates filing each on the second and third days. Additional candidates in state races representing Chatham filed outside of the county.
Here’s a list of candidates who either filed before the period ended, or announced their intended campaigns to the News + Record:
State Senate 20: Chatham is currently represented in the state Senate by Rep. Valerie Foushee (Dem.), who has announced a bid for Congress. Following redistricting, Sen. Natalie Murdock (Dem.) is the incumbent for Chatham’s 2022 voting district. She filed for the office Dec. 8.
House District 54: Currently held by Dem. Rep. Robert Reives II, who is running again. So far, former Republican county commissioner Walter Petty has also announced a campaign, but not filed.
Reives filed for the office on Dec. 8, before filing was suspended.
“I am proud to file for re-election to continue serving the people in House District 54. I have been humbled by the opportunity to represent my friends and neighbors in Raleigh, and I look forward to continuing that service,” he said in a release. “Chatham County is my home, and I understand the issues families are discussing at the dinner table because my family does the same. I want to serve for another term to ensure that we are creating a community and state that is better off for our children.”
N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Seat 03: Dem. Lucy Inman and Rep. Richard Dietz both filed Dec. 6.
N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Seat 05: Republicans April Wood and Trey Allen filed for the seat on Dec. 6, so did Dem. Sam Ervin IV.
N.C. Court of Appeals Judge - Seats 08, 09, 10, 11: Rep. Julee Tate Flood filed for Seat 8 on Dec. 6. Republicans Beth Freshwater Smith and Donna Stroud filed for Seat 9 on Dec. 6.
Dem. Gale Murray Adams and Rep. John Tyson also filed for Seat 10 on Dec. 6; Dem. Darren Jackson and Rep. Michael Stading filed for Seat 11 that day as well.
N.C. Superior Court Judge District 15B Seat 1 and 2: Dem. Alyson Grine filed for Seat 1 on Wednesday and Dem. Allen Baddour filed for Seat 2 on Tuesday.
N.C. District Court Judge District 15B Seat 1: No one filed for this office during the brief filing period.
District Attorney District 18: Dem. Kayley Taber filed Dec. 7.
Chatham County Board of Commissioners Dist. 3: Currently held by Dem. Commissioner Diana Hales, who is not running for reelection. Dem. Lewis Hendricks announced a bid for the seat and filed for it on Dec. 6.
Chatham County Board of Commissioners Dist. 4: Currently held by Dem. Commissioner Jim Crawford, who resigned from the board due to health reasons, effective Dec. 31. On Dec. 6, two Democratic candidates filed for the seat: Albert Reddick and Katie Kenlan.
On Dec. 7, Democrat Travis Patterson also filed for the office.
Chatham County Board of Commissioners Dist. 5: Currently held by Dem. Commissioner Franklin Gomez Flores, who filed for the seat Dec. 6.
Chatham County Clerk of Superior Court: Democratic Incumbent Dana Hackney filed for the office on Dec. 6.
Chatham County Sheriff: Currently held by Dem. Sheriff Mike Roberson, who filed for the office Dec. 6. Marcus Globuschutz, a probation/parole officer for the N.C. Dept. of Public Safety, has announced his intention to file for the race. He is a registered Republican.
Board of Education Dist. 3: Currently held by Vice-Chairperson Del Turner, who filed on Dec. 7. She will not be on the ballot in the primary, since the Board of Education race is nonpartisan.
Board of Education Dist. 4: Currently held by board member Jane Allen Wilson, who filed for the seat on Dec. 8 and will also not be listed on the ballot in the primary.
Board of Education Dist. 5: Currently held by Chairperson Gary Leonard.
Town of Cary Town Council At-Large: Ken George and Ed Yerha filed Dec. 6.
Town of Siler City Mayor: Siler City Commissioner Chip Price announced at a Dec. 6 town meeting that he would run for mayor in Siler City’s municipal election in March.
Town of Siler City Town Commissioner At-Large: Price has served as at-large commissioner for 10 years. If he were to win his election bid for mayor, the seat would be open.
Town of Siler City Town Commissioner Dist. 1: Commissioner Tony Siler announced he would not seek reelection this year, meaning the Dist. 1 seat will be open.
Town of Siler City Town Commissioner Dist. 5: Lewis Fadely holds the seat.
You can view the most updated state maps and see which districts you reside in at ncleg.gov/Redistricting.
Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.
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