Anyone who follows Guilford County politics in the slightest knows what happened when the Board of Education’s District 3 seat was vacated by current Guilford County Commissioner Pat Tillman.
A political war ensued that took nearly a year to settle and the NC legislature had to step in twice to settle the issue.
When it was announced on Monday, Oct. 2, that Commissioner James Upchurch was stepping down from his District 6 seat on the Board of Commissioners, some in the county were wondering if there could be some sort of similar battle over this seat.
The short answer is, no, there won’t be.
To be sure, the situation is rife for controversy. Upchurch won the seat by running as a Democrat but later changed his affiliation to Republican and served his last two years as a member of the GOP. So, should he be replaced by a Republican or by a Democrat? And will that nominee be accepted by the Board of Commissioners – or will he or she face rejection as happened in the recent case of the Guilford County Board of Education?
As soon as Upchurch made his announcement, both Republicans and Democrats were perking up and unofficially throwing their names into the hat. But it turns out it will be a Democrat.
Guilford County Attorney Andrea Leslie-Fite said this week that the relevant NC General Statute directs that in this case the Guilford County Democratic Party Executive Committee make a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners and the eight current commissioners will vote on whether or not to accept the nominee put forward by the committee.
In the school board battle this year – and late last year as well – the school board voted continually to reject the candidate that Guilford County Republican Party Executive Committee nominated. There was a question as to whether or not that vote by the school board was “perfunctory” or “substantive.” That is, were the board members legally obligated to approve the Republican Party’s recommended replacement.
In the case of the Board of Commissioners seat, Leslie-Fite said the vote to accept is not perfunctory.
“It’s an actual substantive vote,” she said.
But there is no worry that this process will look like the drawn-out school board fiasco.
For one thing, the Democratic majority was already a 6-to-3 majority and the Democrats have no trouble ever doing whatever they agree to do. That won’t change one bit regardless of who fills this seat.
Secondly, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston is going to play a huge role in this selection process and if a new candidate has Alston’s stamp of approval then he or she is in like Flint.