It would appear as if some shenanigans are going on in the effort to fill the seat, and ballot spot, of the late State Sen. Don East, and the Surry County GOP is right in the middle of them.
Or perhaps we should say the local party chair appears to be in the middle of them.
A little background first.
East, of course, died last week from complications following back surgery. The seven-term senator was in the midst of a re-election campaign against Democrat Ric Marshall and, by state law, the executive committee of the district’s Republican Party is empowered to choose a replacement to fill his seat. That choice is then forwarded to the state GOP for its blessing, and ultimately to the governor’s office for approval.
A complicating factor at this time is the fact that East’s name remains on the ballot and anyone voting for him will essentially be casting a mystery vote for whoever the party ultimately chooses. Despite the tight timeframe, ideally it would have been good to see a replacement for East be named prior to the Nov. 6 elections.
That’s not going to happen. East died on Monday, Oct. 22, the executive committee did not meet until Sunday, Oct. 28, to discuss filling the seat, and how, the seat will be filled appears to be in limbo.
What we do know from the state Republican Party is that the district committee is supposed to meet, accept nominations, and then choose a replacement from among those nominees. We also know no member of that committee — which is comprised of officers of the GOP committees in Surry, Stokes and Wilkes counties — is supposed to be nominated, nor actively work to have his or her name placed in nomination. If a committee member wants the seat, she or he is to resign from the committee, then pursue the appointment.
At least two local Republicans who hold elected office told The Mount Airy News that Surry County GOP Chairman Dan Kiger is apparently interested in taking East’s seat, which they know to be an improper move on his part. Both say they have attempted to discuss the matter with him, but he is not returning their telephone calls.
Kiger said Tuesday that a committee meeting is scheduled for this Saturday, and he said the committee, along with state GOP officials, would be meeting in closed session, after which an announcement would be made regarding the vacancy.
Only problem is some key members of that group don’t seem to know what Kiger is talking about. Virginia Smith, chairman of the Stokes County GOP and a member of the district executive committee, said she received confirmation from state party officals the meeting would be Sunday and she is unaware of any imminent appointment.
She also said when the decision is made, the entire process will be done in open session, not in closed session.
So it does appear some sort of unsavory tactics are in play here for the open seat. Either that, or the GOP is simply in disarray on this issue. Either way, there is definitely something amiss, and the GOP needs to act quickly to get its house in order, or voters might decide it’s time to look elsewhere for their senate representation in Raleigh.