Ballance resigns Congressional seat

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 10, 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C. – One month after ending his bid for reelection to U.S. Congress, Frank Ballance has announced he is resigning his First Congressional District seat.

In a press release issued on Tuesday, Ballance, a Bertie County native who made his mark in state politics while residing in Warren County, said he submitted his letter of resignation to the Speaker of the House. His resignation becomes effective on Friday.

&uot;I made this decision because I am no longer able to carry out the responsibilities of this office due to my current health condition,&uot; said Ballance who was diagnosed in early February with Myasthenia Gravis, a neuromuscular disease.

With ongoing treatment of his medical condition, Congressman Ballance said in early May that he was expecting to regain normal strength of the affected muscles in approximately six weeks (the disease basically affects muscles under voluntary control, such as eye movements, eyelids, chewing, swallowing, coughing and facial expression, but can also affect muscles that control breathing as well as those that control movement of arms and legs).

However, Ballance stated that his condition has not progressed as expected. He said he suffered a setback on May 5, leading to treatment at Bethesda Naval Medical Center near Washington, D.C., which caused him to reconsider his decision to seek reelection.

There was no mention in his latest press release if his condition had worsened.

However, the news of Ballance’s resignation did not go unnoticed within the circles of state politics.

&uot;I was saddened to hear that Rep. Frank Ballance will resign from Congress,&uot; said Barbara Allen, Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party. &uot;For more than two decades, Rep. Ballance has capably represented North Carolinians in the state house, state senate and in the U.S. House of Representatives.&uot;

She continued, &uot;Our thoughts are with Rep. Ballance, his wife Bernadine and their family as they continue to deal with his continuing health issues.&uot;

While North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Ferrell Blount shared Allen’s concerns on the Congressman’s health, he stated he was glad to see Ballance resign.

&uot;We agree with Congressman Ballance’s decision to resign from office, whatever the reason may be,&uot; said Blount. &uot;The cloud of suspicion resulting from Congressman Ballance’s actions rendered him ineffective to represent the people of North Carolina’s First Congressional District.&uot;

Ballance’s resignation leaves vacant North Carolina’s First Congressional District seat. According to Don Wright, general counsel for the North Carolina State Board of Elections, Governor Mike Easley will use State Statute 163.13 to call for a special election in order to fill that vacancy.

&uot;It’s now up to the Governor to set the date of that special election,&uot; said Wright. &uot;Once he sets that date, a special election will be set up among the county boards of election within the First Congressional District and an election will be conducted under the supervision of the state board.&uot;

Wright said there would be three candidates on that special election ballot – one nominee each from the state’s three major political parties, Democrat, Republican and Libertarian. The highest vote getter would only be entitled to fill the remainder of Ballance’s unexpired term, one that ends on Dec. 31, 2004.

&uot;Whoever wins, their term will expire at the end of the year,&uot; confirmed Wright.

He went on to say that the three political parties can nominate a candidate who has currently filed to run for the First District Congressional seat.

&uot;I’d say that’s not likely to happen, but it is allowed,&uot; noted Wright.

Wright added that the Governor is under no certain time frame to call for the special election. It may occur on, before or after the scheduled July 20 statewide primary.

Ballance was elected to Congress in the 2002 general election. He was chosen by his peers in Washington to the office of president of the U.S. Congress’ freshman class.

One year into his term, Ballance came under fire in light of a state and federal investigation into the now defunct Hyman Foundation, an organization he founded that was accused of questionable accounting practices and conflicts of interest.

In October of last year, State Auditor Ralph Campbell released a report that revealed questionable spending in excess of $300,000 by the Foundation. The SBI and FBI followed with their own investigations, ones that led Ballance and others in the organization as well as those receiving Foundation funds, including local State Senator Robert Holloman of Ahoskie, to appear before a Federal Grand Jury.

Ballance was Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Hyman Foundation, a non-profit organization – one fueled by nearly $2.1 million of state taxpayer money over a 10-year period – that funded drug and alcohol counseling programs throughout eastern North Carolina.

Seven individuals have filed to run for Ballance’s First District Congressional seat in the July 20 primary. Those candidates are democrats Christine Fitch of Wilson, Sam Davis of Elizabeth City, G.K. Butterfield of Wilson, Don Davis of Snow Hill and Darryl Smith of Wilson. Greg Dority of Washington and Jerry Williford of Oxford, both republicans, are also candidates for the seat.