McCrory defends election schedule to replace fomer Rep. Watt

jmorrill@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 14, 2014 

Firing back at critics, Gov. Pat McCrory Tuesday defended his timetable for a special congressional election, calling it “the simplest, least costly and least confusing option.”

The Republican governor made the argument in a letter to two Democratic congressmen who last week accused him of leaving voters in the 12th Congressional District without representation for nearly a year.

McCrory’s letter came hours after the state NAACP implicitly threatened legal action if he doesn’t change the schedule.

The vacancy occurred last week when U.S. Rep. Mel Watt, a Charlotte Democrat, resigned to take over the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

McCrory announced a special election timetable that would coincide with the state’s regularly scheduled elections: a May primary, a probable July runoff and a November general election.

He said that would save election boards around $1 million and reduce voter confusion.

In the letter to U.S. Reps. G.K. Butterfield and David Price, McCrory said he had few options.

“Numerous factors were taken into consideration,” he wrote. “In the end, holding the special election on the same days as the general election was the simplest, least costly and least confusing option.…

“According to the Board of Elections, the earliest date we could have our first special primary was March 25. The second primary would have been June 3. The general election to fill the vacancy would have been in late July or early August.”

Scheduling the special primary and probable runoff on the same dates as the regular elections would still have allowed an earlier general election. But McCrory said not early enough to make it worth it.

“Using the already scheduled election dates, the earliest we could have held the special election was September 16,” he wrote. “This is only seven weeks away from the November 4 regularly scheduled election.”

Last week Price and Butterfield called the governor’s timetable “unacceptable.

“It is,” they wrote, “unprecedented in recent congressional history.”

Of the seven other vacancies in the current Congress, they said, six were filled in an average of 126 days. The seventh vacancy is in Florida, where special primaries were held Tuesday for the seat of longtime GOP Rep. Bill Young, who died last October. The general election is March 11.

McCrory said those arguments fail to take into account the timing of when the vacancies occurred or differences in state election laws.

Adding their voice to other critics, state NAACP President William Barber and his attorneys said Tuesday that McCrory should reconsider his schedule, which would leave Watt’s seat open until at least November.

Attorney Irving Joyner said any lawsuit “depends on the governor’s actions.”

“If the governor relents, (it’s) not likely,” he said in a conference call with reporters. “If not, it is highly likely in the short order.”

A McCrory spokesman dismissed the NAACP’s implied threats.

“Rev. Barber’s continued litigation games both mislead the public and waste needed taxpayer dollars for education and other priorities,” said spokesman Ryan Tronovitch. “These PR stunts have gotten to the point of being ridiculous and should no longer be taken seriously.”

Neither Joyner nor Barber said what schedule they preferred, only that they want an election “as soon as possible.”

“North Carolinians of all walks of life … will be without a voice,” Barber said. “This is a dangerous pattern of denial that we see continuing which is contrary to our fundamental values.”

Morrill: 704-358-5059

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