GOP nominee in Senate 22 disqualified

Jul. 08, 2014 @ 06:02 PM

Republicans need a new candidate for state Senate to run against incumbent Sen. Mike Woodard, thanks to a decision by the Caswell County elected board to disqualify the winner of the party’s May primary on residency grounds.

The decision came at the urging of the primary’s second-place finisher, Herman Joubert, a Caswell County resident who alleged opponent Milton Holmes doesn’t actually live in Durham, never mind in Senate District 22.

Party leaders from Durham, Caswell and Person counties now have to meet and decide on a replacement for Holmes, who won May’s GOP primary with just short of 52 percent of the vote.

Durham County Republican Party Chairman Ted Hicks suspects Joubert will inherit the nomination.

“I will be surprised if any other candidate announces himself or is nominated from the floor,” Hicks said, adding that Joubert “deserves a lot of credit” for having actively campaigned for the GOP nomination.

Holmes, a lawyer, was the Republican standard-bearer against Woodard in the 2012 election. Woodard, a Democrat and former Durham city councilman, won that race with 65 percent of the vote.

This May’s GOP primary appeared to set up a rematch, but Joubert, a substitute teacher, quickly protested its results.

In subsequent Caswell Board of Elections hearings, he pointed out that Holmes actually owns two homes, one in Durham’s Falconbridge neighborhood and a second in Fayetteville.

The Durham home appears disused, Joubert and Person County Republican Party Chairwoman P.J. Gentry told the Caswell board.

Lee Green, vice chairman of the Durham Republican Party, also backed the claim, giving Joubert a letter for the Caswell board. In it, he said it looked to him that the Falconbridge home is without running water and electricity and “appears utterly abandoned.”

At least some of those observations squared with The Herald-Sun’s on Tuesday.

As Joubert noted, the house’s mailbox has been taken down and is lying on the ground beside its front door. The house itself has maintenance issues, including some rotted exterior trim.

Holmes is, however, current on his Durham County property taxes. He paid his 2013 tax bill, for $1,298, on Dec. 19.

Joubert also told the Caswell elections board he traveled to Fayetteville to look at Holmes’ other property. He “saw Holmes at that address,” according to the board’s decision.

The Caswell board tried to subpoena Holmes, but neither the Durham County nor the Cumberland County sheriff’s offices were able to deliver a hard copy of the board’s request.

Caswell officials mailed copies to both of Holmes’ addresses, and also emailed the lawyer. He responded to the email, saying he couldn’t make it to the hearing for reasons of health.

He “did not otherwise respond to the subpoena” and didn’t appear when the board met on June 17 to consider its decision, the board said.

Holmes didn’t respond to an email Tuesday requesting comment. He missed a June 23 deadline for appealing his disqualification to the State Board of Elections, said Teresa Young, Caswell County’s elections director.

Durham County officials didn’t play a part in the investigation, save for answering some queries from their Caswell County counterparts, Durham Board of Elections Director Michael Perry said.

The Durham board’s chairman, lawyer and Republican Party member Bill Brian, added that state law limits any county elections board’s power to launch investigations in the absence of a triggering complaint.

So in Joubert’s case, “where they filed their complaint” determined which board would take the lead in handling the case, Brian said.

“We are absolutely, positively not permitted to go chasing around looking for trouble, so to speak,” Brian added. “There are obvious reasons for that. You don’t want the government out seeking reasons to disqualify people from voting.”

District 22 covers all of Caswell and Person counties, plus the suburban and rural portions of Durham County.

Holmes despite campaigning only via a few emails carried Person and Durham counties in the primary. Joubert won his home county.