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State senate candidate ruled ineligible to run

By CAL BRYANT

Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald

An appointed panel of elections officials within the newly created NC Senate District 1 ruled Thursday that a local business owner who had filed for the General Assembly seat is ineligible.

The five-member panel, meeting at the Currituck County Courthouse, convened to hear a challenge filed by a voter in Dare County over the residency of Richard S. (Steve) James. He listed an address of 600 North Metcalf St. in Winton. However, Donna Steigelman of Aydlett filed a petition claiming that James, “does not reside or has not resided in Hertford County as his permanent, primary residence.”

As part of her petition, Steigleman submitted a document, entitled Chatham County Property Report, showing a custom home on 5.88 acres of land at 265 Lystra Estates Drive, Chapel Hill, was purchased on Nov. 23, 2011 by Richard S. James and Linda A. James.

According to Hertford County Board of Elections Director Shelia Privott, James did not attend Thursday’s meeting of the panel, although he was requested to do so.

“They (panel members) attempted to contact Mr. James in an effort for him to attend the meeting as they had questions for him in reference to where he resides,” Privott said. “The panel needed documentation from him in defense that he resided in Winton.”

Documentation from the decision reached Thursday by the panel showed that James was contacted at the three telephone numbers (business, home and cell) provided to the North Carolina Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. On April 9, James was sent an electronic message – via two email addresses on file for him – to notify him of the April 12 meeting.

The physical address James provided the Hertford County Board of Elections when he filed for the NC Senate seat on Feb. 27 is property owned by Alfinita, Inc. – a business that offers custom aluminum extrusions, custom aluminum tubes and custom aluminum products. On the company’s website, James is listed as the president of Alfinita Precision Tube.

The burden of proof of residency falls on the candidate (James), as cited by state statutes.

“He did not attend the meeting to refute the accusations made through the petition,” Privott said.

According to the decision reached Thursday by the panel, they made the following conclusions of law:

James has failed to meet his burden of proof and show by a preponderance of the evidence that he is a qualified candidate for the District 1 office.

James has failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence an actual abandonment of his first domicile, coupled with an intent not to return to his first domicile; the acquisition of a new domicile by actual residence of another place; and the intent of making the newer domicile a permanent domicile.

James is not a qualified candidate for the senate because he is not established domicile in Hertford County or any other county within the same district as the office for which he filed.

Thusly, the panel ruled that it is ordered that James is not a qualified candidate for the office.

Thursday’s ruling is not the end of the road for James. Once he receives the written order of ruling by the panel, James has 48 hours to file an appeal with the North Carolina Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

Meanwhile, his name will not be removed from the ballots already printed for the May 8 primary. If he does win the primary – one where fellow Democrat D. Cole Phelps of Creswell is also seeking the same seat – the Democratic Party’s Executive Committee for Senate District 1 will choose a nominee to move to November’s General Election.

Dare and Hertford counties are a part of the newly realigned NC Senate District 1, as are Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington.

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