Update, Sunday 11:35 a.m.: Commissioner Fred Foster Jr., the eighth-place finisher, filed a protest on Friday.
While BCR was covering the spectacle otherwise known as the UNC Board of Governors meeting, Virginia Bridges over at The Durham News attended the Durham Board of Elections powwow. She reports that the local elections board isn’t ruling out the possibility of a do-over primary — if the state board asks for one — on account of the miscounting of provisional ballots in March.
The state board meets Tuesday, May 31, at 1 p.m. At that meeting the state board will consider the protests filed by County Commissioner Michael Page, who came in sixth in a contest for five Democratic seats, and Elaine Hyman, the seventh-place finisher.
Virginia’s story lays out the math, which, despite the protests, would not change the outcome of the five winners: Wendy Jacobs, Ellen Reckhow, Heidi Carter, Brenda Howerton, and James Hill. (Since there was no Republican primary, the winning Democrats are the de facto commissioners unless an independent candidate files for the fall; it’s happened before.)
But as a thought experiment, let’s say Durham did hold a sequel to the March election — aside from costing taxpayers $500,000 and disenfranchising 80,000 voters.
It’s doubtful that Page would improve his position, especially considering his recent vote to allow 751 South developers to delay required payments — for “cash flow” reasons — to the state for an environmental mitigation fund.
A new primary could give Page more time to raise campaign funds. In 2012, Southern Durham Development, which is behind the 751 project, created and funded a SuperPAC, pouring $50,000 into its independent support for several 751-friendly candidates, including Page and Brenda Howerton.
Yet Southern Durham Development can’t very well support Page’s redux (independently of course, under SuperPAC rules) while crying to the county that it can’t quite come up with the cash for its watershed mitigation payments. SDD is also on a payment plan with the county tax administration, trying to pay down its overdue property taxes.
Ditto for Howerton and Southern Durham Development. Now here’s where a new primary could get help Hyman. While she finished 1,880 votes behind fifth place, it’s feasible that in a second primary Hyman could carve into Howerton’s vote count. Howerton also recently voted for giving the 751 project a financial reprieve, and then went on a strange rambling about how she had received death threats in 2012 over her previous support for the project. That incident is fresh in voters’ minds, if not permanently burned into them. (Fred Foster, Jr. was the third yea vote; he placed eighth in the primary.)
Yes, it would take quite an effort for Hyman to leapfrog into the top five, but stranger things have happened.
Like the provisional ballots in the March primary.