Candidate Filing Resumes for ‘22 Elections

Voting booth
The primary is schedule for May 17, 2022. 

Candidate filing for 2022 elections resumed on Thursday, almost three months after it was halted to allow for lawsuits that challenged redrawn Congressional and legislative districts.

The case was, mostly, resolved last Wednesday when a special panel of judges approved new General Assembly districts and ordered a new map for the state’s 14 congressional districts.

Candidates have until Friday, March 4 to file for Congress, state and county offices. Candidates who already filed in December don’t need to do so again as long as they’re running for the same office. Indeed, the majority of candidates filing for election in the county did so in December.

Partisan primaries will be held May 17.

As far as state races go, State Sen. Tom McInnis, currently representing District 25, filed for election in December to run for the newly drawn District 21 seat. McInnis previously lived in Richmond County near Ellerbe, but moved to a home in Pinehurst so he could keep Moore County as his district under the new maps. The maps upheld by the judge panel keep Moore County in District 21, so McInnis will not need to refile.

Under the new maps, Moore County is divided into three different state house districts. Rep. Jamie Boles, whose House district now includes much of Moore County, is competing against Rep. Ben Moss. Moss currently represents parts of Montgomery, Richmond and Stanly counties. Both men are competing for the District 52 seat, which includes all of Richmond County and the southeastern half of Moore County.

Neal Jackson is running to represent District 78, which includes the western half of the county. A Pinehurst native, Jackson decided to run after Rep. Allen McNeil announced he was not running for reelection for the 78th district.

John Sauls, of Sanford, is running for the District 51 seat, which encompasses the northeastern part of Moore. He currently represents Harnett and Lee counties.

One of the biggest electoral changes deals with the new congressional districts. Moore County, which had been cut almost in half and shared between Districts 8 and 9, has been returned, in whole, to District 9.

Three candidates, one of whom is very familiar to Moore voters, have announced plans to run for the District 9 seat.

U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, whose District 8 seat once included all of Moore before the cleaving, announced he will seek the District 9 seat even though it does not include his home in Cabarrus County. Unlike most races, congressional candidates do not have to live in their districts.

Hudson could face a significant challenge, however. State Rep. John Szoka, a Cumberland County Republican, has said he plans to seek the seat as well, though he had not filed as of Friday afternoon. Szoka currently represents Cumberland County in state house District 45, and has served five terms in the General Assembly.

Charlotte businessman and former Army veteran Francisco Rios has also filed for the Republican nomination.

On the Democratic side, Alma Adams, who currently represents the Charlotte-centric District 12 in Congress, has filed for the 9th district, according to state records. If that holds up, and Hudson and Adams win their respective primaries, it could set up an expensive clash of two sitting Congressional representatives.

Closer to home, Moore County races have been active this campaign season. Specifically, the Moore County Board of Commissioners is facing huge turnover in December, with three of the five board members announcing they would not run for reelection. The fourth member, Louis Gregory, stepped down earlier this month for health reasons. His replacement will also be voted on in the upcoming primary and general election.

Several candidates have stepped up to fill those seats. Jim Von Canon is seeking the District 1 seat that will be vacated by Commissioner Catherine Graham, who is not seeking re-election. A Moore County native, Von Canon retired from a 28-year military career in 2018. He currently lives in Lakeview and is running as a Republican.

David McLean filed for election this week. He aims to compete for Graham’s seat as well.

In the District 3 seat that will be vacated by Commissioner Otis Ritter, John Ritter is running his first local campaign. A practicing attorney in Seven Lakes, Ritter lives in the Westmoore community. He previously ran in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor in March 2020, finishing fourth out of a slate of nine candidates.

In addition, Kurt Cook, a Republican hailing from Aberdeen, is running for the District 5 seat currently held by Jerry Daeke. Daeke announced last fall he would not run for reelection in November.

Nick Picerno, who retired from the board in 2016, was named by the local Republican Party’s Executive Committee last week to replace Gregory until an election in November can fill the seat until 2024, when Gregory’s term was set to expire. Picerno served eight years on the board and currently sits on the N.C. Lottery Commission.

Picerno had planned to run for the redrawn state House District 78 but changed his mind after hearing of Gregory’s resignation and the need to redraw districts.

Sheriff Ronnie Fields is currently the sole candidate for Moore County Sheriff. A Republican and longtime law officer, Fields is currently serving his first term after handily defeating opponents Steve Adams, a local businessman, and former sheriff Neil Godfrey in the 2018 election and 2018 primary, respectively.

In other local races, six candidates filed for one of three open seats on the Moore County Board of Education.

Helen Garner Maness, a retired educator who taught business education at North Moore High School for 20 years, is running in her first political campaign for the District 3 seat, currently held by Pam Thompson.

Shannon Davis is also running for the school board District 3 seat. A resident of Carthage and a Moore County native, Davis attended Calvary Christian School and has chosen to homeschool her three children.

Four candidates are seeking one of two at-large seats on the school board: Ken Benway, Pauline Bruno, Robin Calcutt and Rollie Sampson.

Benway retired from active duty in 1993 and settled in Whispering Pines in 2004.

Bruno is a Pinehurst resident who recently stepped down as chair of Moore Republican Women. Bruno is a former special education teacher with 21 years experience.

Robin Calcutt, a Moore County native and Pinecrest High School grad, is the current chair and professor in the education department at St. Andrews University in Laurinburg. She retired from Moore County Schools with 34 years experience as a teacher, assistant principal of Union Pines High School, principal of New Century Middle and West Pine Middle schools.

Rollie Sampson is also seeking one of two open at-large school board seats. She currently works for the district as its military liaison. An army veteran and military spouse, Sampson has lived in Moore County since 2005. Sampson is also a licensed mental health counselor and also works closely with school counselors to support military-connected students.

Other local candidates who have filed for office include:

District Court Judge District 19D: Three seats are available. Current candidates include incumbent judges Warren McSweeney and Regina M. Joe and Carthage attorney Beth Tanner.

Moore County Clerk of Superior Court: Chris Morgan, who has worked in the clerk’s office for more than 20 years, has filed as a Republican. Current Clerk Susan Hicks is retiring in December.

Moore County Register of Deeds: Two Republicans, Bill Britton and Andrew Ritter, have filed for the chance to replace longtime Register of Deeds Judy Martin, who also is retiring this fall.

From 9th Congressional District Chair James A. Davis

On February 4th, in a 4-3 ruling, the North Carolina Supreme Court struck down NC’s legislative and Congressional maps as unconstitutionally partisan. This ruling defends the rights of every individual’s vote, regardless of race or political belief,  This is fantastic news for North Carolinians and the health of our democracy.

Here are some highlights of the decision:

  • By 5:00 p.m. on 2/18/22 – The General Assembly must draw a new set of Congressional and legislative maps and send them to the Superior Court. All parties in the case may also submit their preferred maps for consideration. The Superior Court will choose the maps that meet the guidelines of the North Carolina Constitution.

The Supreme Court’s ruling contains one huge change. In a monumental ruling, the General Assembly is required to also review the data on any racially polarizing voter patterns, in accordance with the Voting Rights Act. Such patterns serve to dilute the influence of people of color in voting. This will help represent voters instead of politicians. As an example, under the now-defunct maps, roughly 25% of the Black lawmakers in the state legislature would have been at risk of losing their seats in the upcoming election.

Concerning partisan gerrymandering, the Court ruled that the maps can’t diminish the power of anyone’s vote based on their party affiliation.

  • By 5:00 p.m. on 2/21/22 – All parties must submit any comments to the Superior Court.
  • By 12:00 p.m. on 2/23/22 – The Superior Court will choose the maps.
  • By 5:00 p.m. on 2/23/22 – Parties must submit any objections to the selected maps.

Candidate filing will resume at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, February 24th, and will close at Noon on Friday, March 4th.

Lawmakers Prepare to Redo District Maps

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Voting at the Moore County Agriculture Center Tuesday morning. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

State lawmakers have just two weeks to come up with new political district maps after the North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the original documents in a 4-3 decision along party lines last Friday.

The four Democratic justices declared that the maps were unconstitutional and would lock in Republican majorities across the state despite the GOP representing no more than half the state’s voters.

The Supreme Court last December delayed the primary election from March 8 to May 17 following legal challenges to the original districts. Justices will have just five days to make a final decision on the maps once Republican legislators submit them on Feb. 18. Candidate filing is set to resume Feb. 24.

Moore County’s representatives, who all sit in the Republican majority, declined comment for now on what a new round of redistricting could mean for the county.

“I do know that we will be in Raleigh working on redistricting, and we’ve been advised by our council to just remain quiet right now,” said State Rep. Jamie Boles, whose House district now includes much of Moore County.

For now, all parties appear to be trying to stick to a May 17 primary election. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed an attempt by Republican lawmakers recently to push back the primary date to June.

The maps that the court rejected Friday were drawn up by N.C. House Redistricting Committee and included a period for public input. Not surprisingly in a state with a long history of lawsuits over gerrymandering, the first legal challenges were issued within hours of voting. As approved, the maps were projected to give Republicans a 10-4 majority in its congressional delegation despite a nearly even ratio of registered voters between each major party. The GOP also would have retained its majorities in the State Senate and House under the rejected maps.

In their ruling Friday, justices said that the maps defied several provisions in the state’s constitution dealing with free elections, freedom of speech and equal protections of citizens.

Republican leaders did not deny that the maps leaned in their favor. Instead, they argued that the constitution does not prohibit partisan advantage from being considered in map drawing. Republicans bolstered their case from a ruling by state trial judges last month. In that ruling, the judges admitted that the maps “are a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting.” However, they ultimately decided to uphold the maps on the grounds that it was not the place of the courts to interfere with the democratic legislative process.

The new maps would have brought substantive change for Moore County’s representation in the General Assembly.

In the state Senate, instead of being connected with Randolph or Richmond counties as in past years, the new district map connected Moore with large parts of Cumberland County to the east.

Current State Sen. Tom McInnis, who lived in Richmond County near Ellerbe, moved to a home in Pinehurst so he could keep Moore County as his district.

In the House, most of Moore previously fell within House District 52. Just a small portion of the county rested within District 78, which took in much of Randolph County and was represented by Rep. Allen McNeill.

Under the new districts, Moore County would have been cut into three house districts: 78, 51 and 52. However, the boundaries for District 52 would have been substantially changed to include all of Richmond County, putting Boles in a so-called “double-bunked position” with another incumbent, Rep. Ben Moss, of Rockingham. Both men have filed to run for the District 52 seat.

The changes won’t affect McNeill personally — he announced last December he was retiring — but a redrawn District 78 took in much more of Moore County and includes Pinehurst, Seven Lakes and large swaths of southern and western Moore. House District 51, currently represented by Republican Rep. John Sauls of Sanford, would include northeastern Moore but be a Lee County-centric district.

In addition to those changes, the rejected redistricting maps reunited Moore County into one congressional district. It most recently was divided almost in half between U.S. House Districts 8 and 9. Under the new map, it would be included all in District 8. Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop, who currently represents District 9, has indicated he will file for District 8.

In its ruling Friday, the state Supreme Court did not specify which districts needed to be changed or produce clear standards on the revision.

“At this point in time, I don’t think anybody’s been given any clarification from the court so maybe we’ll have something by the end of the week,” Boles said.

North Carolina Supreme Court strikes down new voting maps

By Bryan Anderson & Travis Fain, WRAL statehouse reporters

The North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday voted to strike down new voting maps Republicans passed in November.

The high court issued a 4-3 decision split along ideological lines. It said Republicans must submit new voting maps to a lower court by 5 p.m. Feb. 18, where they must then be approved by a three-judge panel by noon on Feb. 23. If the new legislative and congressional boundaries are not submitted in time, the judges would be tasked with selecting a plan.

“When a districting plan systematically makes it harder for one group of voters to elect a governing majority than another group of voters of equal size, the General Assembly unconstitutionally infringes upon that voter’s fundamental right to vote,” the four registered Democrats on the state Supreme Court wrote in their order.

The voting maps passed in November strongly favored the GOP, with the party slated to win 10 or 11 of the 14 U.S. House seats up for grabs in the 2022 election. The new state House and Senate maps also gave Republicans a better chance of securing veto-proof majorities.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper praised the high court’s decision rejecting the legislative and congressional maps, writing on Twitter: “A healthy democracy requires free elections and the NC Supreme Court is right to order a redraw of unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts. More work remains and any legislative redraw must reflect the full intent of this decision.”

State Sen. Ralph Hise, a western North Carolina Republican who co-led the mapdrawing process and was named in the lawsuit, criticized the court’s decision, arguing that the justices set a precedent that will be difficult to unwind.

“Democratic judges, lawyers, and activists have worked in concert to transform the Supreme Court into a policymaking body to impose their political ideas,” Hise said in a statement.

Chief Justice Paul Newby, a registered Republican, dissented, saying that it is up to voters and lawmakers to prevent partisan maps from being carried out. His GOP colleagues, Phil Berger Jr. and Tamara Barringer also opposed the court’s decision.

“Unless and until the people alter the law to either limit or prohibit the practice of partisan gerrymandering, this Court is without any satisfactory or manageable legal standard and thus must refuse to resolve such a claim,” Newby wrote.

In a statement, the state Democratic Party called the ruling “a critical and momentous step towards maps that protect the fundamental right to vote.”

Michael Whatley, chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, said in a statement, “We are extremely disappointed that the four Democrats on the Supreme Court have chosen political expediency over reason in order to invalidate the maps drawn by the NC General Assembly. This blatantly partisan decision flies in the face of centuries of judicial and legislative precedent and directly contradicts any plain reading of the North Carolina Constitution.”

The high court in December halted candidate filing and voted to push back the primary by 10 weeks from March 8 to May 17 to ensure the case could work its way through the court system. A panel of Wake County Superior Court judges, including two registered Republicans and one registered Democrat, unanimously voted last month to keep the maps in place.

The state Supreme Court’s ruling says the state should expect to have districts finalized by Feb. 23 and primaries held as planned on May 17.

“We will work to comply with the schedule and administer elections in the new districts,” said Pat Gannon, a spokesman for the State Board of Elections.

Though the three-judge panel found evidence of “pro-Republican partisan redistricting” that could generate election results that are “incompatible with democratic principles,” the judges determined they didn’t have the power to rein in the legislature’s mapmaking powers.

The state Supreme Court then agreed to swiftly hear the voting groups’ appeal.

The core issue in the redistricting case was less about whether GOP lawmakers drew voting maps meant to boost their political power. Rather, the focus was whether state courts are permitted to do anything about it.

Voting rights groups challenging the maps argued that the boundaries Republicans drew violated residents’ rights under the state constitution to a free election and equal protection under the law.

Allison Riggs, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, also said the maps should be struck down because they dilute the voting power of racial minorities, particularly Black voters who overwhelmingly choose to elect Democrats.

Riggs called the court’s ruling on Friday “an unequivocal win for North Carolina’s Black voters who were most harmed by this extreme partisan gerrymander.”

Republicans have noted Black voters are not a monolith and that they did not use racial data when drawing the maps.

“There was no racial data used, so it was not possible to discriminate against minorities,” said Phil Strach, an attorney representing GOP lawmakers.

Only one of the three registered Republicans on the high court, Chief Justice Paul Newby, spoke during oral arguments. He noted a “fair” election isn’t explicitly afforded to voters.

Strach argued the state constitution’s free election and equal protection clauses do not address partisan gerrymandering. He also warned the four Democratic justices on the state Supreme Court who questioned him that they could be seen as legislating from the bench if they struck down the maps.

“The damage to this court has already begun,” Strach told the justices. “The mere possibility that this court might strike down the redistricting plans has already led some in the public to start treating the court like a legislature, not a court.”