News: CJ Exclusives

Elections Board Chairman Stepping Down

Attorney Josh Howard cites time required for job, health as reasons for leaving early

Josh Howard, the chairman of the State Board of Elections, has announced that he will step down effective Jan. 1, 2016. He made the announcement Tuesday during a board meeting.

“We are bipartisan 99 percent of the time, and that sets a tone not just for our staff and the folks watching here in Raleigh, but across the state,” Howard said in a statement released by the state board. “I regret that I need to step aside now, but I am thrilled and proud of what we have done here.”

Howard told Carolina Journal he was stepping down because the job was taking about 20 hours weekly, and he wanted to manage his health better, saying his cholesterol levels had been rising to uncomfortable levels.

Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Howard to the board. Both are Republicans. State law directs McCrory to appoint Howard’s replacement from a list of three people that will be submitted to the governor by state GOP Chairman Hasan Harnett.

The successor will serve the remainder of Howard’s term on the board, which expires in May 2016.

Howard’s service on the board drew praise from the board’s top staff member, and from one of the Democratic members of the board, according to the board’s news release.

“Howard’s measured leadership has supported our agency during a critical time for elections in this state,” said Kim Westbrook Strach, the board’s executive director. “From investigations to wide-ranging reforms and litigation, Howard preserved the state board’s independence and built bipartisan consensus.”

“Throughout my service in the military and in state government over the past 12 years, I have worked with few individuals who have so thoughtfully served their constituents – in this case, the voters of North Carolina, said Joshua Malcom, a Democrat. “I have found Josh Howard is a man of deepest integrity. Though appointed through a partisan process, our board under Howard’s leadership has carried out its responsibilities in a manner beyond reproach.”

Howard is a founding partner at the Raleigh law form of Gammon, Howard and Zeszotarski. Before that, he led the white collar crime section at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina. He also served in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Office of the Independent Counsel and the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy.

Howard is the second Republican member to leave the State Board of Elections to leave this year. Earlier, Paul Foley left the board after McCrory asked for Foley’s resignation following reports that Foley had asked the board’s staff about a campaign finance investigation involving a client of Foley’s law firm.

Barry Smith (@Barry_Smith) is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.