Mel Watt's seat in Congress to sit empty until November

Posted by Jim Morrill on January 6, 2014 

The special election in North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District will be held along with the state’s regular elections, leaving the seat empty for what appears to be a record length of time.

Gov. Pat McCrory made the announcement Monday hours after Democratic Rep. Mel Watt of Charlotte was sworn in as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Before a ceremonial White House ceremony, Watt was sworn in by his Charlotte protege, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The special election to fill his seat will involve the first special primary election in the state’s history, according to legislative counsel Gerry Cohen.

With an expected July runoff and November general election, it means the district will be without representation for nearly a year. At least one candidate believes that’s too long.

“The constituents of the 12th District deserve a quick and fair election,” state Rep. Alma Adams of Greensboro said in a statement. “Instead, they are being silenced. Over 600,000 constituents will not have a voice or a vote in Congress until after November, and that is a shame.”

The special election will run concurrently with the regular election schedule, starting with a May 6 primary.

In announcing the schedule McCrory cited efficiency, cost and the desire to minimize confusion for voters.

“It was determined the most efficient process would be to roll the special election into the already established primary and general election dates,” the governor’s office said in a news release. “Cost is another factor. A stand-alone primary, runoff primary and general election would cost taxpayers in excess of $1 million.”

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