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Candidate’s residency challenged

WINTON – A Dare County woman is challenging the residency of an individual that filed in Hertford County for the newly created NC Senate District 1 seat.

Dare and Hertford counties are a part of that new district, as are Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell, and Washington.

According to documents sent to this newspaper by the Hertford County Board of Elections office, Donna Steigelman of Aydlett filed a petition claiming that Richard S. (Steve) James “does not reside or has not resided in Hertford County as his permanent, primary residence.”

James, a Democrat, filed for the Senate seat on Feb. 27. His voter registration application in Hertford County, which he applied for in October of last year, lists his residence at 600 North Metcalf Street in Winton.

Shelia Privott, director of the Hertford County Board of Elections, confirmed on Monday that when James’ voter registration card was mailed last year to the Metcalf Street address, it was returned as “undeliverable” by the US Postal Service. Privott said her office contacted James, who came into the local Board of Elections office and supplied a mailing address of PO Box 177 in Winton. She said his voter registration card was mailed to that address and was not returned by the Postal Service.

When he filed for the Senate seat on Feb. 27, James listed the Winton PO Box as his address.

In her petition, Steigelman claims otherwise. She alleges there is no habitable residence at 600 North Metcalf Street, and the address is that of a business owned by “the candidate” (James).

“The candidate (James) claims that he stays at the business during the work week,” Steigelman alleged in her petition.

She further claims that James, along with his spouse, resides on a permanent basis at 265 Lystra Estates Drive, Chapel Hill. Her petition contained an attachment, entitled Chatham County Property Report, showing a custom home on 5.88 acres of land at the Lystra Estates Drive address was purchased on Nov. 23, 2011 by Richard S. James and Linda A. James.

An online search of the property at 600 North Metcalf Street in Winton revealed it’s the location of Alfinita, Inc. – a business that offers custom aluminum extrusions, custom aluminum tubes and custom aluminum products. James is listed as the president of Alfinita Precision Tube.

Privott said that since registering to vote in Hertford County, James has not cast a ballot. To date, the only opportunity he has had to do so came during the municipal election held in November of last year.

As far as Steigelman’s petition was concerned, Privott said it will be first heard by a recently appointed panel, one formed to hear challenges in multi-county General Assembly districts. For Senate District 1, that panel consists of Johnny Sessoms III, D-Hertford; Alice Malesky, R-Currituck; William M. Sawyer, D-Camden; Josh Phelps, R-Washington; and Alice Mackey, D-Hyde. Malesky will serve as chair of that panel.

According to state law, the burden of proof of residency falls on the candidate (James). He is required to show the actual abandonment of the first domicile, coupled with the intent not to return to that domicile; the acquisition of a new domicile by actual residence at another place; and the intent of making the newer domicile a permanent domicile.

Once the panel makes a decision on the petition/challenge, it will be forwarded to the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

If the James’ local address is accurate and his candidacy is confirmed, he will face fellow Democrat D. Cole Phelps of Creswell in the May 8 Primary. The victor will meet the winner of the Republican primary between Rep. Bob Steinburg of Edenton and Clark Twiddy of Kill Devil Hills in the November general election.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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