The Constitution Party isn’t expected to become the state’s fifth political party until Wednesday, June 6. But it already faces a threat to potential candidates.
The Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement is scheduled to vote at 2 p.m. Wednesday on a petition to certify the Constitution Party for ballot access. If approved, the party would join Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, and Green parties on the ballot.
The House passed Senate Bill 486 Monday night by a 66-44 margin. The omnibus election bill — which goes to the Senate for concurrence — would bar losers in primary elections from running on another party’s ticket in the fall general election.
“That’s something that we’re fighting right now,” said Kevin Hayes, Constitution Party vice chairman. Nothing in current law prevents a defeated primary candidate from ticket hopping between political parties in the same election year. The law does disallow a primary loser from running as a write-in candidate in the general election during the same election cycle.
Hayes said the “sore loser” provision was inserted into the bill by state Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, House Elections and Ethics Law Committee chairman.
The move was triggered, he thinks, by reports Rep. Beverly Boswell, R-Dare, may file to run on the Constitution Party ballot. Boswell lost her May 8 GOP primary to Currituck County Commission Chairman Bobby Hanig. Greg Holt, who lost a Republican primary for the Craven County Board of Commissioners, has solicited the Constitution Party for an endorsement to run in the fall.
“They feel that we’re a threat to the Republican Party,” Hayes said.
Republicans enthusiastically embraced the Green Party’s qualifying for ballot access in March. The Green Party is considered likely to draw away some candidates from the Democrats.
“We’re not actively pursuing people, but people that have lost primaries, if they want to seek our nomination we’re not blocking it,” Hayes said. “We think a candidate should have the right to affiliate with whoever they see fit.”
That doesn’t mean extending carte blanche to defeated candidates.
“We don’t want to run candidates who are simply running for revenge,” Hayes said. “We want to make sure people are running because they feel that’s what best for their district.”
To gain ballot access, a party needs 11,925 petition signatures. According to the Constitution Party website, 16,286 signatures were collected, and 12,636 were determined to be valid. Officials turned in their petition to the Elections Board on May 30.
“We anticipate they’re going to certify us,” Hayes said. “Everything’s in order so we don’t anticipate there will be any issues.”
Hayes, who has worked on ballot access issues for years, said party officials are excited about being added to the general election ballot.
Under North Carolina law, a new political party must hold a nomination convention the first time it qualifies. The Constitution Party will convene in Charlotte on June 16.
Candidates have a June 12 deadline to submit their requests and a questionnaire for party endorsement. A subcommittee of party executive committee members will vet the paperwork, and make recommendations to the full committee.
“We have a lot of people who are interested in running. We’ve had a few people already submit paperwork to us,” Hayes said. “We’ll field some candidates across the state,” in county commission and sheriff races, state House and Senate contests, and for congressional seats.