What’s next?

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 8, 2007

The deaths of both local state legislators on the same weekend have left Roanoke-Chowan area political officials in a tizzy.

As the families of NC House of Representative Howard Hunter Jr. and NC State Senator Robert Lee Holloman were left with the grim task of making funeral arrangements, local Democratic Party officials were coming to grips with the procedures they face in filling the void left by the deaths.

Never before in the long history of North Carolina politics has a Governor faced the daunting task of appointing two new legislators from the same area of the state at the same time.

According to North Carolina Statute 163-11, the Governor is responsible to appoint an individual to fill a vacancy within the General Assembly. However, in order to fulfill that obligation, the Governor relies on the recommendation of the local executive committee of the political party which the deceased was a member.

Locally, that means Democratic Party chairpersons in Bertie (Penny Thompson), Hertford (Winfred Hardy) and Northampton (Iris Williams) counties are making sure the framework is in place to make those recommendations to the Governor.

Thompson, Hardy and Williams said the State House of Representatives district committee and the State Senatorial district committee from their respective counties are established. Each committee is required to have one member. In the case of the Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties, they have two members on each committee.

While the time, date and place of the district wide committee meetings has yet to be announced, one local Democratic Party official told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald that they would be held together, possibly before the end of the month.

At those meetings, the committee members from each county may nominate one or multiple individuals. Once the nominations are completed, the committee members will cast votes (one vote for each 300 persons residing within their county). If that committee consists of more than one member, each member shall cast an equal share of the votes allotted to the county.

This process must be performed jointly by committee members for Hunter’s House District 5 seat (comprised of Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Perquimans counties) and Holloman’s District 4 Senate seat (Bertie, Chowan, Gates, Halifax, Hertford, Northampton and Perquimans counties).

In both cases, the names of the leading vote-getters will be forwarded to the Governor for his consideration. By law, the Governor shall make the appointments within seven days of receiving the recommendations. If he fails to make the appointments within the required period, he shall be presumed to have made the appointments and the legislative body to which the appointee was recommended is directed to seat the appointee as a member in good standing for the duration of the unexpired term.

Hunter and Holloman were each reelected in November to two-year terms.