N.C. Senate candidate residency challenge hearing scheduled

By on April 9, 2018

Richard “Steve” James

A hearing has been scheduled on the challenge of the residency of Democratic N.C. Senate District 1 candidate Richard S. “Steve” James, one week before early voting for the May primary begins.

The panel of three Democrats and two Republicans selected from the eleven counties that make up the district will meet on Thursday at 10 a.m. at the Historic Currituck County Courthouse in the commissioners meeting room.

The group is chaired by Republican Alice Malesky of Currituck, and includes Josh Phelps, a member of the GOP from Washington County, and Democrats Johnny Sessoms III of Hertford County, William M. Sawyer of Camden and Alice Mackey from Hyde.

Under state law, the panel could issue a ruling on the challenge at Thursday’s hearing. Any appeals would then go to the state Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

Currituck Board of Elections director Syndi Banks said James had not responded to the notice of the challenge or hearing.

Regardless how the challenge turns out, James’ name will still appear on Democratic ballots in the district because they have already been printed.

Absentee ballots have already been sent out and returned to county Board of Elections offices by voters.

Multiple sources have told the Voice that James was not a serious candidate and essentially filed as a “placeholder” because no Democrats had filed two days before the Feb. 28 deadline.

The day after James filed, D. Cole Phelps of Creswell signed up to run.

The victor will meet the winner of the Republican primary between Rep. Bob Steinburg and Clark Twiddy in the November general election.

Donna Steigleman, a Democrat from Currituck County, filed the challenge petition with the Hertford County Board of Elections on March 12, stating James does not reside at, or has intentions to move to, an address in Winton.

James listed 600 North Metcalf Street in Winton as his residence, the same address as Alfiniti Precision Tube, a manufacturer of extruded and drawn aluminum tubing of which he is vice president, when he registered to vote in Hertford County on Oct. 12, 2017.

North Carolina statutes lay the burden of proof on the candidate to refute the claims of the petition.

The challenge was filed on March 12, and would have normally been heard within five business days.

But both state and local boards were not seated until the previous two weeks, due to an ongoing legal battle between Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, and the Republican leaders of the General Assembly, who revamped the makeup of the boards after his election in 2016.

James has not responded to requests from multiple media outlets in recent weeks, and has also failed to appear at several forums and events he was invited to participate in across the district.

Election laws dictate that if James were to be ruled ineligible and still win the primary, the Democratic Party executive committee of Senate District 1 would then choose the nominee.

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