An incumbent mayor will not be on the ballot come November after a decision from the Burke County Board of Elections.
During a hearing on Thursday, the board voted 3-2 to uphold the residency challenge to Rutherford College Mayor Gary McClure’s candidacy. Michael Duncan, who also filed to run for mayor, challenged McClure’s residency with the elections board.
In the decision, board members Beverly Carlton, Anthony Iovino and Linda Walker voted to uphold the challenge, while L.H. Kirksey and Sandi Walker voted against the challenge. McClure can appeal the decision to the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
The board’s decision came after McClure and Duncan testified during the hearing and were questioned by the board. Neither side called any witnesses.
At issue was whether McClure lives at his home in Rutherford College or at his vacation home in Banner Elk the majority of the time.
The burden was on McClure to prove that he hadn’t abandoned his home in Rutherford College, intends to return to it and he had to show his newer domicile is not a permanent one.
McClure testified that all of his bills and mail come to his post office box in Rutherford College and not to his vacation home. He said when anyone asks him where he lives, he tells them Rutherford College.
“I never have intended to abandon my home in Rutherford College,” McClure said.
Duncan asked McClure whether he lives at his home on Buckingham Drive in the town.
McClure, who is retired, admitted that it is a personal family situation that dictates where he spends most of his time, which is Banner Elk. He said his son has been living at the home in Rutherford College. McClure said his son has two cats that he is allergic to and his two dogs don’t get along with his son’s cats. He said until his son can relocate, the living arrangement is best.
McClure said he holds office hours at town hall two days a week and attends all of the meetings.
While McClure argued the living situation is temporary and he intends to return to his Rutherford College home, he couldn’t tell the elections board when that might be, saying family comes first.
J.R. Simpson, attorney for Burke County, defined for the board that “temporary” is a finite amount of time. He told the board state law says if a person moves to another county within the state, with the intention of remaining there an indefinite amount of time and making that county that person’s place of residence, that person will be considered to have lost their first place of residence.
McClure will have the opportunity to appeal the board’s decision.
Simpson said the Burke County Board of Elections has 20 days to have the order on its decision signed. Once it has been signed, it will be served to McClure and Duncan. He said McClure would have two business days to appeal the decision to the state elections board.
Another challenge to a mayoral candidacy in Valdese could be appealed to the state elections board.
Valdese resident Steve Kiddy challenged the mayoral candidacy of Jimmy Jacumin, saying he doesn’t live full-time in the house he bought a month before filing for election this year.
On Aug. 19, the board of elections voted 3-2 in favor of allowing Jacumin to remain on the ballot.
Simpson said he is still working on the order from the elections board. Once that order is completed and signed, Kiddy will have two business days to appeal the decision to the state elections board, he said.
Debbie Mace, director of elections for Burke County, said Kiddy plans to appeal the decision to the North Carolina State Board of Elections.
Ballots have to be ready and go out to those requesting absentee-by-mail ballots by Oct. 1, Mace said.