Thursday, February 29, 2024

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Scramble on for parties to decide judicial nominees for Nov. ballot after Allen’s sudden retirement

The competition to replace former district court judge Brad Allen has become a “race” in more ways than one – as Allen’s would-be successors clamor to win over their respective political parties ahead of the fast-looming deadline to get on the ballot.

Under state law, a vacancy on the district court bench is filled by a gubernatorial appointment that’s customarily based on recommendations from the members of the local bar association. The governor’s choice is, nevertheless only a seat warmer until the voters of the judicial district can select a more permanent replacement at the next biennial election when state-level offices will appear on the ballot.

This relatively straightforward procedure becomes far more complicated if a vacancy emerges after the candidate registration period for the forthcoming election. Under those circumstances, the race for the judgeship becomes a matter of speed for the two major parties, which have a relatively short time to select their preferred candidates to square off in the general election.

Such is the case for the district court judgeship that Bradley Reid Allen, Sr. officially vacated on February 1.  A member of the district court bench since 2000, Allen had served as the county’s chief district court judge from 2014 until this past December, when he was summarily stripped of the title by Paul Newby, the chief justice of North Carolina’s supreme court. Allen’s demotion followed accounts of the judge’s allegedly inappropriate behavior during an annual Christmas party that the local bar association had held earlier that month.

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Although Allen initially held on to his judgeship despite his reduction in rank, he ultimately stepped down from the bench altogether last week. Allen’s retirement, which took effect February 1, effectively started the clock on the scramble over this newly-vacated seat, which was originally scheduled to appear on the ballot in 2026.

Due to the timing of Allen’s resignation, the seat will now appear on the ballot this fall for a truncated two-year term rather than the usual four years in office. Moreover, as the slates for this year’s primaries are already set, candidates for this post will have to appeal to their respective political parties in order to complete in November’s general election.

The bewilderingly tight timetable for Allen’s prospective successors recently became clear when Kevin Harrison, the president of Alamance County’s bar association, notified the group’s members of the statutory provisions that will guide this procedure.

On Tuesday, February 6, Harrison circulated an email to say he had nailed down the applicable rules after consulting with an attorney for the governor’s office as well as Tom Lambeth, Alamance County’s senior resident superior court judge.

“We have learned that this vacancy will be governed by the newly added terms of N.C.G.S. 7A-142(d)(2)a,” he went on to note. “This statute provides for the executive committees of both the Republican and Democratic parties to convene within seven days of the resignation…to decide on nominees to be placed on the ballot.”

Harrison’s missive goes on to urge potential candidates to contact their party leaders post haste in order to be considered.

“If you have any interest in this seat and are a partisan candidate, you must reach out immediately to notify them of your interest [emphasis in the original],” he adds. “We are not aware of when these party meetings are scheduled to take place or whether they have already made some decision, but they are scrambling as much as we are to address the situation.”

Harrison’s sense of urgency about these nominations has also filtered through to Alamance County’s elections director Dawn Hurdle.

“Paul Cox at the state board [of elections] told one of the party chairs that the nominations have to be in by 12:00 on February 8,” Hurdle recalled in an interview Tuesday. “I have spoken with both of the party chairs and they know they need to submit their nominees to the state board so those names can appear on the ballot in November.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Kathy Page, the chairman of Alamance County’s Republican Party, informed The Alamance News that the party’s executive committee “will be meeting to select our nominee” to succeed Allen on Wednesday. Page added that the committee has “spoken with a number of possible candidates,” although she didn’t provide any particulars.


UPDATE: REPUBLICANS SELECT BRYAN RAY: https://alamancenews.com/breaking-overnight-gop-taps-attorney-bryan-ray-for-nov-ballot-to-fill-brad-allen-seat-on-district-court-bench/


The Alamance News has not yet heard back from Ron Osborne, Page’s counterpart with the local Democratic party, about his group’s preparations to select its nominee. It nevertheless seems that speed is of the essence on either side of the aisle – at least according to Harrison’s notice to the Alamance County bar association.

I will reiterate that you must act immediately. [Emphasis in the original],” the organization’s leader declares in his email on Tuesday. “Any delay increases the likelihood that you will not be considered.”


BACKGROUND – Longtime district court judge Brad Allen retires: https://alamancenews.com/district-court-judge-brad-allen-retires/

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