Local Democrats hope Cooper declines to make 34th District appointment

Published 12:02 am Thursday, August 17, 2017

SALISBURY — One day after Republicans picked Dan Barrett to be the 34th District’s new state senator, local Democrats asked the governor not to make the appointment.

In a Wednesday email to members of the Rowan County Democratic Party, Chairman Geoffrey Hoy said he had asked Gov. Roy Cooper to refuse to appoint Barrett. Hoy said he also asked Cooper to push for a law to require special elections when there are vacancies in the N.C. General Assembly.

In his email, Hoy said voters elected a person, not a party, to be their representative in the N.C. Senate.

“No one elected Dan Barrett to serve in this capacity,” Hoy said. “It is an affront to our democracy that we continue to allow political parties, and not the people, to select our representatives.”

Asked about the email, Hoy said his suggestions are not focused on partisan politics. It’s about “pushing for more democracy with a small ‘d,’” he said.

Hoy said he would be OK with a special election even if the 34th Senate District had been vacated by a Democrat.

It’s unclear what Cooper’s plans are on Barrett’s appointment. His office did not respond to a request for comment.

But Republicans don’t actually need Cooper to make the appointment. State law says the governor “shall make the appointment within seven days of receiving the recommendation.” If he fails to make the appointment within that period, “he shall be presumed to have made the appointment.”

Local Republicans say Democrats proposed the idea only because Barrett is a Republican and his predecessor, Andrew Brock, is, too. Brock resigned from the seat in June to take a position on the state Board of Review.

During a Tuesday meeting at the Davie County Courthouse in Mocksville, Republicans from three Rowan, Davie and Iredell counties picked Barrett over Salisbury attorney Bill Graham and Chad Mitchell, a teacher and former Rowan County commissioner. Barrett won on the first ballot, meaning he received more than 50 percent of the vote.

Under state law, vacancies in the General Assembly are filled by the political party of the person who resigned or previously held the office.

State Rep. Carl Ford, R-77, said he doesn’t understand Democrats’ suggestions because the same process has been used across North Carolina for decades.

State Rep. Harry Warren, R-76, said the suggestion of a special election amounts to an unfunded mandate that would use money that could be spent on other purposes. County government would pay for a special election, Warren said.

Rowan County Republican Party Chairman Don Vick said if Barrett does what he’s promised to do as a state legislator, then people of all parties are going to benefit.

“Dan Barrett is going to be a senator for all the people of the district,” Vick said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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