Blinson’s removal raises ire

Published 6:00 pm Wednesday, December 25, 2013


The removal of Delma Blinson from the Beaufort County Board of Elections is not sitting well with some area Republicans and tea party members.

Blinson, who holds an education-related doctorate, was removed from the local board by the State Board of Elections last week for violating a state law that prohibits elections officials from publicly supporting or opposing candidates for elected office.

Keith Kidwell, chairman of the Beaufort County Republican Party, in a news relapse, indicates in-fighting among Republicans locally and at the state level played a role in Blinson’s removal from the board.

“The facts of the matter are that Dr. Blinson while attending a Beaufort Patriot TEA Party meeting as a private citizen on October 17, 2013 did in fact express an opinion that Dr. Greg Brannon was the best candidate for the US Senate and he did make a motion that the Tea Party endorse Greg Brannon for US Senate (Kay Hagens seat),” Kidwell wrote.

“Immediately after that meeting and without consulting the executive committee a member sent an email to the State Board of Elections charging Dr. Blinson with a violation of GS 163-39. This was obviously done in cahoots with another former executive committee member who resigned when he was unable to substantiate his position at a meeting of the committee,” he added.

The state board received a complaint that Blinson violated a state law — specifically, General Statue 163-39 — that forbids elections officials from making “written or oral statements intended for general distribution or dissemination to the public at large supporting or opposing the nomination or election of one or more clearly identified candidates for public office.”

The state board learned of the alleged violation by way of an email from Chocowinity resident William Buonanno. State board staff investigated the complaint. In a letter to Blinson, the state board wrote that as a result of the investigation, it appears the following facts have been established:

“You and others were in attendance at a Beaufort County Tea Party meeting on 10/12/13. You made a motion that was brought before the meeting to endorse a candidate for the 2014 Republican U.S. Senate nomination, Greg Brannon. Your motion received a second, and it passed. As a result, the Beaufort County Tea Party is on record, based upon your motion, that they are endorsing Mr. Brannon.

“We understand from a person at the meeting that you wanted to recommend Brannon ‘as he (you) though he (Brannon) was the best candidate.’ Beaufort County Republican Party Chairman Kidwell confirmed to our agency that he recalled your motion, second and the vote upon it. Chairman Kidwell also stated he did not see any problem with your making the recommendation.”

W.L. “Buzz” Cayton, chairman of the Beaufort Patriot Tea Party, complains that he was not able to testify in Blinson’s behalf at the Dec. 20 hearing.

“Dr. Blinson was removed because he spoke in favor of Greg Brannon for US Senate in a Tea Party Meeting. His comments were never published and the group that he was speaking to was not a 501organization or political pack but a Volunteer Community Organization,” reads a news release issued by the Beaufort Patriot Tea Party.

“Whether you like Dr. Blinson or not is immaterial, what is material are two facts. One that a few people in Beaufort County think is up to them to decide what is best for the entire county and the board of election. Two, that the bureaucratic establishment in Raleigh is sticking their nose in your business,” reads the local Republican Party’s news release.

Kidwell wrote that he believes Blinson’s remarks at the tea party meeting were those of a private citizen and not made for public dissemination.

“Since he was not there representing nor did he present himself as a BOE member it is clear he did not violate the rule. Using the interpretation that was applied by the SBOE would indicate that any elected official loses their rights to free speech when acting as a private citizen when they are elected to office. Furthermore I am sure if this standard was applied to the very same people that passed judgment on Dr. Blinson, they themselves would be found in violation of that rule,” Kidwell wrote

Some Beaufort Patriot Tea Party members believe Blinson’s removal from the local board was decided by the state board before Friday’s hearing.

“The mood of the Chairman, Joshua B. Howard was belligerent from the beginning breaking into the middle of Dr. Blinson’s presentation and firing questions. It was evident that this was a done deal before the meeting started,” reads the party’s news release.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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