Defeated candidate Freda Black was a no-show at a media conference set for this morning where she was expected to discuss the results of Tuesday's Democratic Primary for district attorney, in which she finished 899 votes behind incumbent Mike Nifong.
Black's campaign sent out a brief e-mail to the press cancelling the planned appearance about an hour before she was set to speak on the courthouse steps. She has not yet conceded the race to Nifong.
"There's nothing in the law that says a loser has to stand up on the courthouse steps and say 'I lost,'" Mike Ashe, Durham County elections director, said today.
Ashe said he had not received any indication from Black that she intends to file a challenge to the election results. Under state law, she has up to two days after the local elections board of elections certifies the count to file a challenge.
The board is set to meet Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for Black's campaign would not say today if she intends to file a challenge, only that she wouldn't speak about the election results until after Tuesday's elections board meeting.
Less than 300 provisional ballots remain to be counted in the race, meaning that not enough outstanding votes remain for Black to make up the gap against Nifong, according to the unofficial results. Ashe said that Black's potential avenues for challenging the results are limited.
"You can't just go to the board and say, 'I couldn't have lost, so therefore it must be someone else's fault," Ashe said.
"She must make a specific complaint about a time and place where an irregularity occurred and provide proof that it happened. And even if they can prove someone voted illegally, then the elections board can come back to say that would not have affected the outcome and certify the results anyway. If she can show 900 people voted illegally, that would obviously be a different matter."
State law would also prohibit Black from appearing on the November ballot as an independent candidate. State law contains what is known as the "Sore Loser's Clause," which forbids an unsuccessful candidate from a political party primary from appearing on the November ballot in the same race during the same year. Similarly, the law also says that any write-in votes cast for Black in the General Election would not be tabulated.
"Once you are on the primary ballot and lose, there is no way for you to get votes in November," Ashe said.
Staff writer Michael Biesecker can be reached at 956-2421 or firstname.lastname@example.org.