Wake County

Judge denies Wake commissioner’s request to reopen candidate filing period

Wake County Commissioner Caroline Sullivan, center, on Monday asked a federal judge to reopen the candidate filing period for three commissioners districts so she can run to keep her seat on the board.
Wake County Commissioner Caroline Sullivan, center, on Monday asked a federal judge to reopen the candidate filing period for three commissioners districts so she can run to keep her seat on the board. cseward@newsobserver.com

A federal judge on Thursday denied a request by Wake County Commissioner Caroline Sullivan to reopen the candidate filing period so she could run for the seat she currently holds.

U.S. District Court Judge James C. Dever III said the Wake elections board wouldn’t have enough time to reopen the filing period for three commissioners districts, as Sullivan had wanted.

When Dever issued an order Aug. 9 to reopen the filing period for all nine Wake school board seats, “the court was extremely concerned about the ability of the Wake County Board of Elections to meet all of the necessary deadlines for timely and orderly elections in Wake County in November 2016,” the judge wrote.

Sullivan wanted Dever to allow Board of Commissioners candidates to refile for Districts 4, 5 and 6. She represents District 4, which includes south Raleigh, parts of Cary and Apex and unincorporated areas of southern Wake.

But she filed to run in a “super district” the General Assembly drew for the commissioners and school board to use this year. State lawmakers’ maps included two super districts that each would have covered half the county, both for commissioners and the school board.

Recent court rulings deemed the new district maps unconstitutional, leaving Sullivan without a race to run in for the Nov. 8 election. She argued that the filing period should be reopened because the initial filing occurred under the unconstitutional maps.

Sullivan, who was elected in 2012, said she’s evaluating her options.

“I would like to have the opportunity to continue my service to the people of Wake County especially in the areas of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, helping struggling families and supporting women in the workforce,” Sullivan said in a statement.

“I do not know what my next steps are but I am looking into it,” she said. “I appreciate all of the support I have received.”

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled July 1 that the election maps are unconstitutional, saying they violated equal representation – or “one person, one vote” principles in the U.S. Constitution.

Dever then ordered Wake to hold elections using existing maps that were created in 2011. Under his orders, the filing period was reopened for all nine school board seats but only three commissioners seats. Districts 4, 5 and 6 are identical in the existing maps and the unconstitutional maps.

“Today, this court is convinced that to permit Sullivan to intervene and to grant any form of the extraordinary emergency relief that Sullivan seeks concerning Districts 4, 5, and 6 would ensure that timely and orderly elections for the Wake County Board of Commissioners would not take place in Wake County in November 2016,” Dever wrote in his order Thursday.

His move appears to cement the current field of county commissioner candidates.

Two former commissioners, Democrat Erv Portman and Republican Kenn Gardner, are seeking Sullivan’s District 4 seat.

Incumbent commissioner James West will run unopposed in District 5. Republican John Odom, a longtime Raleigh councilman, is running against Democrat Greg Ford in District 6. Longtime commissioner Betty Lou Ward isn’t seeking re-election in the district.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht

  Comments