Alma Adams, a long-time Democratic state representative and arts educator, is all-but-certainly going to be a Congresswoman. But due to a cost-saving move by her state’s governor, her first partial term may well be over before she gets sworn-in.
Back in January, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) announced that he would hold the special elections to replace Federal Housing Finance Agency director Mel Watt as U.S. Representative for the majority-minority 12th Congressional District on the same days as the already established primary, primary runoff, and general election dates. McCrory said this move would save the state “in excess of $1 million” — the estimated cost of holding stand-alone special elections — and would be “the most efficient process” to comply with “the various filing deadlines, ballot preparation time, state and federal calendar requirements for ballot access, [and] voter registration deadlines.” When critics, including the North Carolina NAACP, noted that this would leave the district unrepresented until November at the earliest, the governor responded that “not much goes on in Washington between July and the election anyway.”
North Carolina law allows the second-place candidate in any primary to request a runoff unless the first place finisher receives more than 40 percent of the votes cast. This year’s scheduled runoff elections are to be held on July 15, 2014, if necessary.
But in the unofficial results from yesterday’s primary election, Adams received more than 44 percent of the vote in the special election primary (and about 44 percent in the primary for a full term of her own). No other party held a primary for the special election in the overwhelmingly Democratic district. Had McCrory’s writ of election contained a provision moving up the special general election to be held along with the already-scheduled July 15th elections, Adams would likely have been able to begin serving her term then. Instead, barring a lame-duck session after the November elections, she would not actually get to serve in Congress at all until her own 2015–2016 term begins in January.
Because Sen. Kay Hagan (D) and House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) each won their Senate nominations with more than 40 percent of the vote, not all (and perhaps no) precincts in the 12th District will actually have an election on July 15th, meaning the state would have had to pay more to hold the special election on that day. But the cost would be far less than the $1 million figure for just one stand-alone special — and had the Senate results been different, the state would have had to pay those costs anyway.
Governor McCrory’s communications office did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress request for comment.