Selma's campaign to add to ballot now goes to judge
Johnston elections board, bound by state law, rejects request on behalf of last-minute candidates
By MARTI MAGUIRE, Staff Writer
A Superior Court judge will decide whether two last-minute candidates will make it onto Selma's ballots in November.
The Johnston County Board of Elections on Tuesday turned down the town's request to accept filings from developer Charles Hester, a would-be mayoral candidate, and retired service station owner Tommy Holmes, who hopes to run for Town Council.
Hester and Holmes both filed Aug. 5 before the noon deadline set by the state. But the Selma town clerk did not deliver their paperwork to the Board of Elections office in Smithfield until hours later.
The town is fighting to correct its error.
Town officials asked the county elections board to accept the candidates. But the board cannot make an exception to the state deadline.
"Our board has no authority to change any general statute law," said Elections Director Teresa Davis.
Davis said this is the first case in which a candidate who filed on time has been kept off the ballot in Johnston County. Starting next year, candidates will be required to file their paperwork at the Board of Elections office in Smithfield instead of town halls.
"This is just to keep any situation like this from happening again," Davis said.
Selma will now rely on the courts to decide the fate of the would-be candidates.
Town attorney Alan "Chip" Hewett filed a complaint in Johnston County Superior Court on Friday claiming Selma will be "deprived of two faultless candidates" if the two cannot run.
A hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Aug. 29 at the Smithfield courthouse.
Hester, the mayoral candidate, said he may campaign as a write-in candidate if his name does not appear on the ballot.
"However it comes out, I'll roll with it," Hester said. "It's not going to be end of the world for me."
Selma Town Manager Jeff White said he was not surprised that the board did not reverse its decision. But he said town officials feel obligated to pursue all possible avenues.
"They filed in good faith," White said of the candidates. "We accepted those filings in good faith, and we just want to make sure we're continuing to do everything we can to make sure those individuals are on the ballot."
Another potential Town Council candidate who filed the same day, Jim Earp, withdrew from the race after the filings were declared invalid.
Staff writer Marti Maguire can be reached at 829-4841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.