An unusual series of political battles have begun in Charlotte, weeks before the primary in what is sure to be a highly contentious election year.
Local Democratic Party leaders have filed formal challenges to the candidacy of 5 Republicans seeking a spot on the ballot in state House or Senate races, according to documents from the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections.
All five face claims that a state GOP official dropped off their filing paperwork instead of it being sent by mail or commercial courier service (or filed by the candidate in person).
- Nora Trotman, who is challenging N.C. Sen. Jeff Jackson in District 37, faces two challenges. The other claim she faces is that she had not been affiliated with the Republican Party for at least 90 days before filing for the election on February 28.
- Benton Blaine and Ty Turner, who are challenging N.C. Rep. Mary Belk in District 88.
- Nancy Campbell, who is challenging N.C. Rep. John Autry in District 100.
- Geovani Sherow, who is challenging N.C. Rep. Carla Cunningham in District 106.
These candidate challenges are unusual and reflective of a move by both Democrats and Republicans to field candidates in races that have historically been unopposed.
This year, for the first time in modern history, all 170 state House and Senate races are contested.
But in the rush to fill the last remaining seats, both parties recruited candidates with untraditional backgrounds and who perhaps had not been expecting to run this year. It is possible that the local and state parties got sloppy with some paperwork.
It will be up to the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections to decide whether to disqualify these candidates after a formal hearing process. The Mecklenburg County Republican Party will be able to provide evidence or make arguments to counter the claims.
Should the board rule against the potential Republican candidates, it could be a sign that their party pushed too hard to fill open slots.
MeckGOP chairman Chris Turner questioned the Democrats motives in filing the challenges.
“With these actions, Democrats show that they do not want our county to be better. They just want it to be Democratically ruled,” he said. “Voters should see right through the years of singular rule by the Democratic Party and hold them accountable for the deep divide of economic mobility they have created and worsened.”
He also cited the diversity of the candidates the local GOP has fielded this year. Trotman is in her early 20s. Blaine is in his early 30s. Turner is in his mid-30s and is African-American.
While challenges of this nature are relatively unusual, challenges in general are not.
Much more common are challenges to a candidate’s residency. In most cases, you’re supposed to live in the district you’re running to represent — and sometimes candidates will rent apartments or make sudden moves just before filing deadlines.
The local Republican Party is challenging a Democratic candidate on these grounds — Brandon Lofton, who seeks to face N.C. Rep. Andy Dulin in District 104.