Questions surface over Basnight replacement

Published 7:53 pm Thursday, January 20, 2011

Staff Writer

The Pasquotank County Democratic Party’s chairwoman questioned whether her party could immediately proceed with an effort to replace retiring state Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare.
“I’m just wondering why the rush,” Una Green said in a recent interview.
Basnight, who has won the right to serve 14 terms in the Senate, recently announced he would resign effective Tuesday, the day before the legislative session begins.
The once-powerful Senate president pro tempore prior to and during last year’s Republican takeover of the General Assembly, Basnight represents Beaufort County and seven other counties in the northeast.
The state Senate District 1 executive committee will meet at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Tyrrell Hall in Columbia to discuss filling the vacancy that will be left once Basnight departs.
Green questioned whether this meeting could proceed under the North Carolina Democratic Party’s Plan of Organization.
According to Green, delegates to Friday’s meeting should have received five days’ notice of the session.
All of the delegates hadn’t been selected as of Monday night, and all of them likely wouldn’t be selected until shortly before the meeting, Green pointed out.
Green also noted the Plan of Organization calls for the election of these delegates “at their respective county conventions held in even-numbered years.”
Some counties’ Democratic organizations failed to elect these delegates at their conventions. For instance, the Beaufort County Democratic Party’s executive committee met Saturday to elect its delegates and take on other business.
“I’m just wondering what’s going to stand,” Green commented.
In response to a couple of related questions, Kerra Bolton, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Democratic Party in Raleigh, said, “It’s important to have all of the counties’ voices heard.”
Asked what that meant, Bolton said, “It means that (Friday’s) meeting has been called and noticed within the five-day window.”
She confirmed the party’s position that Friday’s meeting will be proper because all newly elected delegates will know the meeting has been called and be notified of the meeting through their local party organizations.
“Delegates can be elected at a meeting of the county executive committee,” Bolton said, adding it doesn’t matter that some of these appointees weren’t elected at county conventions.
Two delegates each from seven of the eight counties in Senate District 1 will gather Friday in Columbia.
This means 14 people, all elected by their counties’ Democratic executive committees, will decide who will represent the district in the Senate for at least the next two years.
The district committee’s nominee will be appointed to the vacant seat by Gov. Beverly Perdue.
One of the district’s counties, Tyrrell County, isn’t “organized” and likely won’t be eligible to send delegates to the district session, Chris Hardee, a district chairman who will preside over the meeting, said last weekend.
Beaufort County’s two delegates — John Murphy and the Rev. David Moore — have thrown their support behind outgoing state Rep. Arthur Williams, D-Beaufort, who is leaving office after being defeated by Republican Bill Cook in November.
One other delegate interviewed by the Daily News hadn’t made commitments yet, and a couple of candidates were unsure who would make up the full field of contenders come Friday.
As of Tuesday, the Daily News had identified at least six people who had offered their names as possible replacements for Basnight.
Those six were Williams, Matt Wood of Elizabeth City, and Kathryn Fagan, Virginia Tillett, Paul Tine and Stan White, all of Dare County.
Other candidates’ names have been mentioned in press reports and political circles, but these candidates either hadn’t confirmed their interest in the job or hadn’t gained momentum as serious contenders.
A call to one of these possible candidates wasn’t immediately returned Wednesday.
Early on, state Rep. Tim Spear, D-Washington, was talked about as a prospective nominee, but Spear announced he wanted to remain in the House.