State elections board dismisses Tyrrell sheriff’s race protest

Published 1:07 pm Monday, July 23, 2018

The State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement on July 18 dismissed Joey Elliott’s protest of the Tyrrell County sheriff’s race.

Elliott contended that Kevin Sawyer, who won the Democratic primary over Elliott and Nathan McPeak on May 8, was unqualified to run for sheriff because he failed to meet residence standards set by state elections law.

Elliott first asked the county elections board to disqualify Sawyer and name the runner-up (Elliott) as the party candidate. He then appealed to state officials after the county board found no probable cause to proceed with his protest.

In a teleconference hearing in Raleigh, the state board, “having considered all of the evidence presented, dismissed the protest by Mr. Elliott,” stated Pat Gannon, state board public information officer. The vote was 8-1, he said.

Sawyer issued the following statement on Thursday:

“I had faith that the evidence supported my residency in Tyrrell County and the earlier decision made by our local board. It was obvious that Elliot’s interpretation of the statute was without merit. Mr. Elliot now has had an opportunity to be heard. I am excited about moving forward and preparing for the November election. I ask for the continued support of Tyrrell County citizens.”

Elliott made this statement:

“Overall the outcome of this process has been an obvious disappointment. However, a state board official did emphasize that had the county board carried out due diligence at their level, we wouldn’t have to escalate the issue so high. I am glad to hear that Kevin Sawyer purchased property in July of this year and plans to establish domicile within the local area, at which point he would fulfill the criteria required to become Sheriff of Tyrrell County. I would like to thank the citizens of Tyrrell County for their support in this process. I would ask that we hold all of our elected/appointed officials accountable to the office in which they serve.”

David Clegg, Tyrrell County manager-attorney; Cecil Lilley, chairman of the Tyrrell County Board of Elections; and Debbie Swain, Tyrrell’s elections director, also attended the hearing.

Three state elections board members were present in the hearing room, and the other six participated via teleconference hookup and speaker phones.

The file of documents submitted by Elliott, Sawyer, and the Tyrrell elections board grew to 104 pages.

Sawyer will be the Democratic candidate for sheriff on the November 6ballot. No other party or unaffiliated candidates filed for the office. A write-in candidacy is unlikely.