SBOE Votes Along Party Lines To Give Sen. Phil Berger Democratic Challenger, Makes Case For Bipartisan Board

RALEIGH – Jen Mangrum was a Republican, apparently, when Donald Trump was elected to the presidency, and then promptly registered as a Democrat. She then set her sights on Senate president pro tempore Phil Berger, but her home in Greensboro was landed outside of the district under new maps.

So, what did she do? She began renting a home in Reidsville in February in an attempt to establish residency such that she could still challenge him. She never occupied the home,according to the challenger.

Her plans got interrupted when a local resident challenged her residency, and the county board of elections ultimately disqualified her from the race based on that challenge.

Mangrum then appealed to the State Board of Elections, and vowed to take the issue to the N.C. Supreme Court, if necessary, in order to run against one of North Carolina’s most powerful Republicans.

Thursday the Board took a vote on whether to uphold or overturn her disqualification. The Board’s four Democrats and one ‘unaffiliated’ members voted to overturn it, while four Republican members voted to uphold.

Thus, Sen. Phil Berger now has a challenger as a result of partisan voting on the state elections board.

Polls form Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning outfit local to North Carolina, put Berger ahead of Mangrum by about 16 points. However, polls also revealed a healthy percentage of respondents would chose ‘someone new’ over Berger.

The entire ordeal, beside making this race one to watch come November, makes one of the clearest cases for a Bipartisan Board of Elections for the Old North State that you could imagine. A local, GOP majority elections board voted to disqualify her, and the state, Democrat controlled board voted to overturn the disqualification.

A choice to amend the state constitution to require such a bipartisan board will be presented to voters in November. The proposal would make the board evenly split between four Republicans and four Democrats, and require at least 6 total votes to approve a motion.

Actually, this arrangement was already passed via legislation, but Roy Cooper (of course) took the issue to court, ultimately winning in January of this year in the N.C. Supreme Court.

So the Republicans, feeling their proposal made too much common sense to drop, passed legislation to include the Bipartisan Board on the ballot as an amendment to the constitution. Polling indicates majority support for the amendment, as well as other Republican-led amendments like Voter ID.

However, that won’t affect the Berger/Mangrum race as it stands now, after today’s party line vote at the State Board of Elections.

Democrats are probably gleeful that they get to challenge their top boogeyman in November, as they will undoubtedly use the race to fund raise and drive enthusiasm into their base. Already the N.C. Democratic Party has nearly $6 million on hand, compared to the NCGOP’s $1.3 million.

Berger, who has $1.6 million on hand, was expected to help NCGOP colleagues with that money, but he may now be forced to spend a lot more to defend against Mangrum in his own race.

Even if he wins easily, the Left will make the most of their fundraising purse to attack the Republican leader. And if the Bipartisan Board amendment gets voter approval in November, questionable partisan decisions on such issues will be a thing of the past.

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