Officials mull political fate of imprisoned Raleigh council candidate

Staff writerAugust 15, 2011 

— Wake County elections officials are trying to determine whether Lent C. Carr II, the recently imprisoned Raleigh City Council candidate, can stay on the October ballot.

Carr, one of six candidates seeking the District C seat, was sentenced Thursday to seven months in federal prison for violating the conditions of his parole for a 2000 fraud conviction.

When voters go to the polls Oct. 11, Carr will be behind bars. But it isn’t clear just yet whether he’ll be on the ballot.

Bruce Lightner, a Southeast Raleigh community activist and funeral home owner, challenged Carr’s candidacy on the grounds that Carr was still on parole when he registered to vote.

Federal felons must have been unconditionally discharged to meet the qualifications for seeking office.

A decision belongs to the three-member Wake County board of elections, which will hear arguments Thursday and then hold its deliberations in public.

Voters have enough to worry about, Lightner said Monday. Five other candidates are vying for District C, which covers southeast Raleigh.

Incumbent Eugene Weeks faces challengers Corey D. Branch, Shelia Lucas Jones, Paul Terrell and Racquel Williams – and possibly Carr.

“As crowded as the field is already, what we don’t need is confusion about a candidate,” Lightner said. “If he siphons off any votes from the people who would be able to serve, that would be unfortunate.”

Lightner said he has no plans to endorse a candidate for District C. The longtime community activist is the son of the late Clarence Lightner, the city’s first black mayor.

Council members appointed Weeks last year to complete the unexpired term of James West, who left to join the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

Weeks declined to say Monday whether he believes Carr should remain on the ballot.

“I’m sorry for this young man,” Weeks said. “I hated to see this have to come out. All I can say is, I’m lifting him up in prayer.”

At the hearing Thursday, the burden of proof will be on Carr to show why he should be allowed to remain on the ballot, said Cherie Poucher, executive director of the Board of Elections.

Poucher said she’s trying to contact Carr through the U.S. Marshal’s Office, but so far has not gotten through.

Lightner’s letter to Poucher also questioned Carr’s mental stability. But Don Wright, legal counsel for the State Board of Elections, advised Poucher that "A person’s mental capacity does not affect eligibility to be a candidate or a voter."

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