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Bowen’s appeal dismissed

RALEIGH – Adrian Bowen’s appeal of being disqualified as a candidate for Bertie County Sheriff was on yesterday’s (Wednesday) meeting agenda of the Bipartisan State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement.

It was never heard.

Rather, the state board dismissed Bowen’s appeal on the grounds of “mootness” – in reference to his lopsided loss, unofficially by over 1,500 votes, in the May 8 Primary.

The decision by the nine-member state board was unanimous.

As reported in Tuesday’s edition, the State Board was notified by a May 22 letter that Faison S. Winborne, an attorney representing the original complainant Vivian Clarke, had filed a motion to dismiss Bowen’s appeal based on “mootness.”

In that letter, Winborne wrote, “according to unofficial, uncertified results of the election on the State Board of Elections website, Candidate Bowen received 29.19 percent of the vote, and his opponent [incumbent Bertie Sheriff John Holley] received 70.84 percent of the vote. Given the lopsided unofficial election result, the issue of Candidate Bowen’s residency has been rendered moot at this point as it appears he was not successful in the election. The appeal of Candidate Bowen should be dismissed.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, conducted by teleconference and available by phone to the media, Winborne was brief in his defense of filing the motion.

“It’s pretty straightforward,” he told the State Board members. “We have the election results that shows Mr. Bowen garnered about 29 percent of the vote while his opponent, the incumbent [Sheriff John Holley] garnered about 70 percent of the vote. We feel at this point this is a moot question about whether he [Bowen] was a [Bertie County] resident given the lopsided nature of that [election].”

Bowen, who filed for Bertie Sheriff in late February, was the subject of a candidate challenge brought by Clarke. She claimed that Bowen did not reside in Windsor, but rather in Elizabeth City. The Bertie County Board of Election upheld Clarke’s challenge when they met on April 17. Bowen filed an appeal of that decision to the State Board.

On Wednesday, Winborne also pointed out that the May 8 Primary in Bertie County also included a quarter-cent local option sales tax referendum on the ballot.

“Actually, the [Bertie] Sheriff’s race had more votes [cast] than the tax [referendum],” he observed. “That is a matter of interest because I think the idea that somehow challenging Mr. Bowen’s residency may have affected the outcome of the election is not accurate. Mr. Bowen was on the ballot and he didn’t gain a sufficient number of votes to win.”

Cary attorney M. Brad Hill represented Bowen at Wednesday’s hearing. Hill stressed his client was waiting on the outcome of the appeal and once that decision was reached (by the State Board) Bowen still reserved the right to file an election protest.

“The reason the election protest would be relevant in this case is the decision by the [Bertie] county Board [of Elections] was handed down approximately 48 hours before voting in the Sheriff’s race,” Hill stated. “All of the underlying publications in that region – newspapers and the like – reported that Mr. Bowen was disqualified as a candidate at that time. The election proceeded under that guise.

“At this point, even though I don’t believe the merits of Mr. Bowen’s appeal are to be considered to determining whether or not the issue was moot, I do believe there is a substantial question that still has to be resolved about whether the election was conducted fairly to Mr. Bowen, and in the meantime he still has legal rights that depend on this appeal and any future appeals that may result,” Hill added.

He then encouraged the State Board to make a decision on the appeal.

“Then, and only then, does the election itself come into play if Mr. Bowen chooses or chooses not to file an election protest,” Hill concluded.

Bipartisan State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement Chairman Andy Perry placed a motion on the floor to allow for the motion to dismiss the appeal.

In the discussion phase following the motion, board member Stacy “Four” Eggers IV said the results of the May 8 Primary were clear.

“The remedy of a new election is extreme,” Eggers remarked. “Based upon the status of this matter and the timing, I would agree with you, Mr. Chairman, that the matter is moot.”

After a proper second, the motion passed without objection.

The R-C News-Herald reached out to the State Board as to what options, if any, does Bowen have at this point. A response was not received by the News-Herald’s presstime for today’s edition.

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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