BOG Election Process Fair, Senators Say
Others call vote, withdrawals rigged

By Laura Youngs, Senior Writer
Published April 8th 2005 in The Daily Tar Heel

Controversy about the N.C. Senate’s election of UNC-system leaders Wednesday won’t affect voting down the hall on the same issue, House leaders said.

The debate centers on a tiff between Senate Republicans, who say the elections process was rigged, and Democrats who say the system functioned the way it should.

Despite the tensions, Rep. Margaret Dickson, D-Cumberland, chairwoman of the House Education Subcommittee on Universities, said the issues surrounding the Senate are not going to affect House BOG elections.

“We don’t try to get into their business, and they don’t try to get into our business,” Dickson said.

Things heated up in the Senate when Jeanne Lucas, a Durham Democrat and co-chairwoman of the Senate’s higher education committee, announced that four of the 12 candidates for the board had withdrawn without reason.

The Senate will chooses eight of the 16 members being appointed to the BOG this year, and the House will choose the rest.

The candidates whose names were withdrawn are Luther Hodges, Michael Brader-Araje, Robert Kennel and John Spotswood, according to the N.C. General Assembly clerk’s office.

Hodges, the only Republican on the list, said he did not withdraw nor hear about it until The Daily Tar Heel contacted him Wednesday.

Sen. John Garwood, R-Wilkes and co-chairman of the higher education committee, called the process rigged.

“We were given a ballot with 12 names on it, and four were marked as having withdrawn,” he said.

“We were led to believe after talking to a couple of (the candidates) that they were removed from the ballot by the Democratic caucus. They told us they did not request to be removed.”

Garwood said he was among those who voted eight times for Hodges in protest.

Lucas did not return repeated calls by press time.

Sen. Edward Goodall, R-Mecklenburg and a higher education committee member, said the ballot should have been done by cumulative voting. In that system, voters can cast ballots for one candidate more than once, though they don’t have to.

“If the majority party only offers us eight candidates, then there is no real election,” Goodall said.

Both Goodall and Garwood said their criticism is not a reflection of the candidates but of the process.

But Cumberland County Democrat Tony Rand, the Senate majority leader, said the process was not unfair.

“They had a ballot with 12 names on it, and it was up to them which eight they voted for.”

Rand said he announced on the floor that Senate members could vote for anyone on the ballot they wished. “The fact that people are whining and complaining about this does not mean it was unfair.”

Senate members approved eight candidates, including incumbents Ray Farris, Hannah Gage, Willie Gilchrist, Jim Phillips and Chairman Brad Wilson, as well as new members Peaches Blank, Phillip Dixon and Willie Smith.

Wilson said the accusations will not affect the board or its image.

“The Senate is responsible for establishing its election process,” he said. “We don’t have anything to do with it or anything to say about it.”

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