RALEIGH — The state NAACP urged elections officials on Thursday to go ahead with next month's Wake County school board election runoff, a last chance for supporters of the school diversity policy to retain control of the board.
The Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, said election officials should not cancel the Nov. 3 runoff election even though candidate Cathy Truitt withdrew her request Wednesday for a second try against John Tedesco.
If the runoff is canceled, Tedesco would automatically take the seat and break a 4-4 tie on the board in favor of supporters of neighborhood schools.
But if the runoff takes place, supporters of the diversity policy could mount a campaign to have Truitt elected. Since she has withdrawn from the race, the seat would be declared vacant if she won the runoff. The current school board would then appoint someone to fill the position, possibly with a supporter of the diversity policy.
"You can't disenfranchise the voters. They may want to express dissatisfaction with the other candidate," Barber said.
The Wake County Board of Elections will meet at noon today to discuss Truitt's request. The state Board of Elections could decide on the runoff on Monday.
Barber said state law requires the runoff to be held, especially since early voting began last week and absentee ballots have been cast. State and local elections officials have said the laws don't cover what happens when a candidate rescinds a runoff request.
Tedesco noted that he and Truitt, both on the record as opponents of the diversity policy, won support from a large majority of voters.
"Why are these people trying to suppress the will of those voters now? This is between Cathy and I, and Cathy doesn't want a runoff. The voters spoke overwhelmingly for me," Tedesco said.
Supporters of the diversity policy argue that switching to neighborhood schools will lead to resegregation.
Barber said the NAACP will hold a meeting on Oct.30 at 7 p.m. at Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh to mobilize supporters of the diversity policy.
Claude E. Pope Jr., chairman of the Wake County Republican Party, said there was no merit to the NAACP's charges. "The board should move to certify John as if she had not asked for a runoff," he said.
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