Local Republicans could choose replacement for Warren, Brock

Published 12:10 am Sunday, April 3, 2016

June’s party primaries for the 13th Congressional District could result in a rare situation for local Republicans.

By itself, the field running for the 13th Congressional District is unusual. A massive field of 22 candidates — 17 Republicans and 5 Democrats — have filed to run for the newly redrawn district. Included in the field are four state legislators — Sen. Andrew Brock and Reps. John Blust, Julia Howard and Harry Warren — all of whom are Republicans. Members of the N.C. General Assembly are allowed to run for Congress under a contingent congressional plan that was adopted earlier this year.

Rowan County would see a change in legislative representation if Brock or Warren went on to win the June 7 Republican Party primary for Congress. The primary winner would be forced to choose whether to pursue a bid for Congress in November’s general elections or continue serving in the state legislature — an unlikely choice.

If Brock or Warren win the primary, local Republicans would then appoint a person to serve in the empty seat. Neither Brock nor Warren have competition in the general election. As a result, the appointee would likely serve a full two-year term.

If Warren wins, the process would be relatively simple. N.C. Republican Party Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse said certain members of the Rowan County Republican Party would appoint Warren’s replacement. The participants in the process, Woodhouse said, would only be executive committee members who live in the 77th District, which Warren currently represents.

If Brock wins, the process is a bit more complicated.

Brock currently represents the 34th Senate District in the N.C. General Assembly. The district includes all of Davie County, a portion of Iredell County and a significant swath of Rowan. A decision about Brock’s potentially empty seat would be split among Republicans in the trio of counties included in the 34th Senate District. A vote to replace Brock would be weighted according to where voters live, Woodhouse said.

The weighted appointment process means Rowan County, which contains about half of the total voters in the 34th Senate District, would have the loudest voice in choosing Brock’s potential replacement. Davie County, for example, contains 28,505 voters. The portion of Iredell in the 34th Senate District contains 30,230 voters. In Rowan, 72,340 voters live in the district.

Rowan County Republican Party Chairman Stephen Kidd described the appointment process as working like a political forum. Those interested in being appointed would speak briefly to Republicans participating in the process. Then, Republicans would go into a private meeting to discuss their selection, Kidd said.

If Brock or Warren advance to November’s general election, Kidd said it’s unlikely to see a lack of Republicans interested in being appointed.

“Those who are interested are typically already prepared to come forward,” Kidd said. “Typically they come right out of the woodwork … I’m sure it’s going to be a very desirable seat.”

Fred Steen, former Landis Mayor and current legislative liaison for Gov. Pat McCrory, was the last person appointed by local Republicans to serve in the North Carolina General Assembly. Steen’s appointment came after the 2004 death of Eugene McCombs, who served as Faith mayor, county commissioners chairman and state representative for the 76th House District.

Steen and Kidd recalled that a total of four people, including two county commissioners, expressed interest in being appointed following McCombs’ death. Before a final ballot, Steen said the list of candidates was narrowed to two candidates. Steen eventually won by one vote.

An appointment process this year, could also take place if either Blust, a Republican who represents part of Guilford County, or Howard, who represents Davie and part of Forsyth County, win the June party primary.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.