Comment and analysis on all things Charlotte

Filling Mel Watt’s seat

Gov. Pat McCrory’s decision to hold the election to fill the remainder of Mel Watt’s term in Congress at same time as the regularly-scheduled 2014 election for the seat has proven to be controversial. The Winston-Salem Journal has a good article examining the possible options, all of which have drawbacks. The key constraints are the need to hold three separate votes (primary, runoff, and general election) to fill the unexpired term with, because of the requirements of the federal MOVE Act, the votes being at least about two months apart. The realistic options:

• Hold the special election primary in March, the runoff in May along with the regularly scheduled 2014 primary, and the special general election in July along with the 2014 runoffs.

• Hold the special primary in May with the 2014 primary, and the special and 2014 runoffs in July. Then hold the special general election in about mid-September (soonest day possible, given the July 15 runoffs).

• Hold the special primary in May with the 2014 primary, and the special and 2014 runoffs in July and have the special general election in November. This saves $1 million compared to the other two options.

McCrory chose this last option. Some Democrats don’t like that. Many of these Democrats also happen to be running to replace Watt…

As John Dinan, a Wake Forest University professor of political science, said to the Winston-Salem Journal: “In considering the various reasons that have been advanced for scheduling the special election cycle at the same time as the regular election cycle, the notion that it is being done for partisan advantage is among the more unlikely reasons.”

He’s correct. And the Charlotte Observer’s editorial board even agrees with McCrory’s decision.

Bonus thought: You only get one chance to make a first impression. And in this case, the governor blew it. If you’re going to make a decision that could generate criticism, get your logic out when you make the announcement. That didn’t happen in this case — the governor’s office put out a meek 183-word press release, stating in part that:

Because of the various filing deadlines, ballot preparation time, state and federal calendar requirements for ballot access, voter registration deadlines and to avoid voter confusion, it was determined the most efficient process would be to roll the special election into the already established primary and general election dates.

Cost is another factor. A stand-alone primary, runoff primary and general election would cost taxpayers in excess of $1 million, according to the State Board of Elections.

This effectively allowed various Democrats to take the offensive, and spin the story in their favor.

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