Board upholds GOP’s candidate challenges, leaving no contested races

Wayne County election officials agreed Monday that no primary election is necessary this spring. The cancelation came after deciding that only one Republican candidate met state criteria to run for Richmond mayor, following eligibility challenges filed in January.

No other Richmond races had more than one candidate seeking their party’s nomination.

According to estimates from Wayne County Clerk Debbie Berry, the city of Richmond can save $55,000 to $60,000 by skipping the May primary, voiding the need for poll workers, security staff, printing ballots and various other expenses.

About the challenges

The election board met Monday morning to hear the challenges filed regarding the candidacies of Richmond mayoral hopefuls David Flannery and Shawn O’Conner.

Wayne County GOP Chair Gary Saunders said he filed the challenge because neither Flannery nor O’Conner meet the state’s requirement of voting as a Republican in the previous two primary elections.

At the same time, Saunders also had challenged two other GOP mayoral hopefuls’ voting records. They already had withdrawn from the race and indicated they would refile as independents. 

O’Conner and Flannery were notified about the opportunity to withdraw their candidacies, but neither did so by Friday’s deadline, so an election board hearing was required.

On Monday, the candidates were given an opportunity to address the board as to why they wanted to run on the Republican ballot and to contest the challenge to their voting record. 

O’Conner appeared at the hearing and addressed the board. Wayne County Clerk Debbie Berry said O’Conner was very passionate about his interest in improving the city and making some changes. He told the board his family had lived in the community for about 200 years. 

Berry said she and the other two election board members, Republican J. Clayton Miller and Democrat Maggie Thomas, don’t want to discourage those passionate about community service from seeking elected office. However, they voted 3-0 that O’Conner had not met the state election code and could not be on the ballot as a Republican.

Flannery did not attend the hearing to defend his voting record, so the board voted 3-0 to remove him from the ballot as well. 

O’Conner told the board he plans to file for mayor as an independent, and he left the meeting with the needed paperwork, Berry said.

Potential Richmond candidates still have time to file as independents or with minor parties to be on the fall ballot for common council, mayor or clerk. They have until noon June 30 to submit the required 150 signatures from registered voters to be eligible.

Primary cancelation vote

Just after O’Conner and Flannery were removed from the ballot and the election board learned of O’Conner’s plans to file as an independent, the board also discussed whether the primary should be canceled. 

Wayne County’s Democrat and Republican party chairs had been polled about their views, and neither indicated a primary was necessary.

Miller, Thomas and Berry then voted 3-0 not to conduct a Richmond primary. A resolution outlining that decision will be prepared and brought to the board’s regular March meeting for the trio to sign. 

The decision does not impact Wayne County’s smaller communities. State law does not require towns of their size to conduct primaries when electing their clerk-treasurers or councilors. 

Instead, town candidates have until noon Aug. 1 to file for office. 

If two or more candidates file for their party’s nomination for a particular office, then a convention takes place shortly after the deadline. Eligible voters are invited to attend and choose their party’s nominee for the fall election. 

If there are no contested races after the convention is conducted, towns do not need to conduct a November election.

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Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.