It is not Wake County Commissioner Caroline Sullivan’s fault that the General Assembly’s messy work attempting to change her board’s district lines has been found unconstitutional, but it may bar her from continuing to serve.
Sullivan, a veteran Democratic commissioner from District 4 (south Raleigh, parts of Cary and Apex and unincorporated areas) decided to file for election from one of two new super districts dictated by the legislature, each covering half the county. But now, with federal judges having ruled the new lines – designed to favor Republicans – unconstitutional, federal District Judge James Dever has ordered Wake to hold elections Nov. 8 using the existing maps created in 2011.
That has left Sullivan without a super district to run in, and the deadline for filing in her current district has passed. She has asked the judge to reopen the candidate filing period so she will be able to run for re-election to her District 4 seat. That would force a remaking of some ballots, but anything that denies Sullivan the right to run is basically punishing her for the mess created by Republicans in the General Assembly.
The board loses a lot if it loses Sullivan. Her community service has included being a Sunday school teacher, working as a public school tutor, helping with Smart Start and organizing help for children with disabilities. She is as qualified in background, and as proven in service, as anyone who has served on the Wake Board of Commissioners.
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What citizens have in Caroline Sullivan is a dedicated public servant able to cross or ignore party lines when it comes to getting things done. She has also been strong in constituent services, something that may be more important at the local level than it is even for members of Congress. People call, and Sullivan answers. More important, Sullivan listens.
A sitting commissioner shouldn’t be forced off the board because changes pushed by the legislature steered her into running in a phantom district.
Wake County residents must hope that Judge Dever will rule for fairness and common sense and allow Sullivan to file to run for re-election. The is the only way to fully undo what the federal appeals court declared was wrong with the legislature’s maps.