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January 16, 2014
In The News

By Geoff Bennett, Washington, D.C. Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Gov. Pat McCrory is defending his choice to wait until November to let voters elect a replacement for former Congressman Mel Watt.

Two of the state’s Democratic congressmen are calling on the governor to reconsider and hold the election earlier.

“I just think it’s a bad decision. It’s a bad decision for any district,” said Rep. David Price.

That’s how Democratic Congressman David Price sums up the decision by Gov. McCrory to put off until November, the special election, to fill the 12th district seat left open by Mel Watt. Watt now directs the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

Congressman Price and Democrat G. K. Butterfield sent a letter to McCrory last week saying it’s unacceptable and unprecedented to leave 700,000 North Carolinians without a voice in Congress for most of the year.

“We think it’s way too long, 300 days plus is way too long to ask any Congressional district to be without voting representation. It’s way out line, way out of line,” said Price.

But the governor is defending his timetable. He says holding the special election at the same time as the November general election saves around a million dollars and reduces voter confusion.

In a letter back to the two congressmen Tuesday, McCrory wrote:

“… having the election on already scheduled dates was the better solution. Using the already scheduled election dates, the earliest we could have held the special election was Sept. 16. This is only seven weeks away from the Nov. 4 regularly scheduled election.”

And in a Wednesday morning TV interview, McCrory said he had few options.

“I’m sworn to uphold the constitutional laws of North Carolina, and I can’t change those laws between now and that election,” said Gov. McCrory on MSNBC on Jan. 15.
Congressman Price isn’t convinced.

“Now, if the governor had a leg to stand on, in terms of cost of this or the inconvenience, then we would, of course, need to consider that. But I don’t believe he does. We have all kinds of elections coming up. You can pretty much have the election for this seat to coincide with those already scheduled elections. The additional cost would be minimal,” said Price.

Meanwhile, the 12th district offices in Washington and North Carolina are open, currently under control of the House Clerk. And the staff is still on the payroll. But the district doesn’t have a vote.

The state NAACP says it may consider legal action if the governor doesn’t change the election schedule. The Rev. William Barber, the group’s president, says it amounts to “taxation without representation."