Newly elected Pender County Board of Commissioners member Jimmy Tate is stepping aside. In an interview with WECT in Wilmington, Tate claims he has experienced both racist and homophobic comments from fellow commission members.
“If my differences bother people that bad, I am going to return the seat to the people, and maybe now they can get someone that they can better relate with than me,” he said.
Tate, a Black Republican from Pender County who also serves on the University of North Carolina Wilmington Board of Trustees, won a highly contested primary election in May of 2022 by less than 400 votes. With no Democrats filing to run for Pender County Board of Commissioners District 1, the primary election was the race that would decide who filled that seat. In July 2022, Republican David Williams announced he was stepping down from the District 1 seat to care for his ill mother. Having won the primary less than two months prior, the Pender County Republican Party submitted Tate’s name as the replacement.
During the November midterms, Tate received just over 17,000 votes for the District 1 commission seat and was sworn in once again in late December for a two-year term. After just 30 days into his elected term, Jimmy Tate says he can no longer serve.
“They’re making it unmanageable for me, in my opinion, to effectively do my job as a commissioner, because their hate towards me is so great,” said Tate. “I’d rather move out of the way and get someone who they can better identify with if they’re not ready to see me and my differences. I’ve never thought that I would experience what I’m experiencing today in our political climate in Pender County.”
At the Pender County Commissioner meeting on Jan. 17, a resident of Hampstead by the name of Beth Butler asked for Tate’s resignation in relation to his residency. Article VI, Section 8 of the North Carolina Constitution says that a citizen is disqualified for office if they are “not qualified to vote in an election for that office.” The North Carolina State Board of Elections database shows Tate as a registered voter in Pender County from 1998 until 2014 when voter records indicate Tate switched his residency to Duplin County.
“Mr. Tate was renting a trailer during the election in a trailer park in Surf City,” Butler said at the commission meeting. “The trailer park has since been sold and is set to be demolished. Several people in District 1 expressed concerns about a lack of representation in their district wanting to know where does Mr. Tate live.”
Protests of a candidate’s or elected official’s residency are not new in North Carolina. In October. Carolina Journal reported on a complaint filed with the N.C. State Board of Elections alleging that Republican state Senate candidate E.C. Sykes did not live in the district where he was running for office.
There is no indication that a formal protest against Jimmy Tate was ever filed with either the Pender County or State Board of Elections.
The Pender County Republican Party has posted a “notice of process for nominating a replacement” on their website to fill Tate’s seat. They are requesting all applicants submit the requested information by noon on Feb. 7.