Rowan-Salisbury School Board race gets testy in final days
Editor’s note: this story has been updated to correctly reflect the seat number that Miller and Hughes are seeking.
By Josh Bergeron
SALISBURY — Following a complaint by candidate Gene Miller, the Rowan County Board of Elections last week temporarily barred incumbent school board member Chuck Hughes from handing out his campaign’s handbills at polls.
Last week, Miller filed a complaint with the Rowan County Board of Elections that Hughes’ handbills weren’t appropriately labeled. Hughes should have included a small statement on his campaign’s cards indicating who paid for the production, according to Rowan County Elections specialist Laura Russell. When those were excluded, Miller said he filed the complaint in an effort to ensure both candidates were playing “by the same rules.”
Miller said he recently purchased campaign flyers that excluded a statement about who paid for production of the items. He was told a transparency statement was required and decided to throw away his flyers rather than use a sticker or stamp to state who paid for the items.
“It seems that Mr. Hughes can’t play by the rules and we should all have to play by the same rules,” Miller said. “We should all have to play by the same rules.”
Miller, a former school administrator, and Hughes are opponents in the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education Seat 5 race. The Seat 5 race also includes Alisha Byrd, a local businesswoman and founder of Gemstones Academy.
There’s no doubt about it. The school board has become the most competitive local race on November ballots. A total of eight candidates are running for three seats.
Just over a week remains until election day.
Last week’s complaint is the first time tensions have flared in an individual race. Tempers flared in multiple races when the Rowan County Republican Party chose to endorse the three Republican incumbents — including Hughes. Three challengers who are registered Republicans were left without the support of their own party.
When asked about Miller’s complaint, Hughes started by noting his support from the local Republican Party.
“There are three people who have been endorsed in the race and he just doesn’t like that,” he said. “He’s just trying to do something that makes me look bad.”
Hughes was adamant that his campaign’s handbills fit within election law. He said campaign handbills or flyers don’t need to contain a statement describing who paid for the items unless they were larger than certain dimensions. He also said the transparency statement wasn’t required in nonpartisan races.
The transparency statement is, in fact, required, Russell said. As a result, he won’t be allowed to hand out the handbills until the statement is included, she said.
Now, Miller will be forced to take steps similar to Hughes before he’s allowed to pass out campaign handbills. Hughes could place the statement on the handbills with a stamp or a sticker. He could also purchase new ones.
When told by the Board of Elections that his handbills couldn’t be passed out, Hughes told the Salisbury Post that he misunderstood state law.
“It was an error and I appreciate him bringing it to my attention,” he said.
Despite the decision from the local Board of Elections, Hughes will still appear on handbills passed out at polls. The local Republicans’ endorsement means that he’s part of the party’s list of recommended candidates.
Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.