District 72 candidate Ed Hanes testifies before the Forsyth County Board of Elections.
Three candidates will remain in the Democratic primary for NC House District 72 following the Forsyth County Board of Elections’ finding last week that Ed Hanes Jr. and Wayne Patterson are qualified to run in the district at the end of a hearing rejecting a residency challenge by fellow candidate Jimmie Bonham.
The three-member board unanimously upheld Patterson’s qualifications as a candidate, but split along party lines over Hanes’ candidacy, with Democratic members Linda Sutton and Michael Flatow voting in Hanes’ favor and Republican member Jonathan S. Dills voting against him.
If Bonham’s challenges to both candidates had been successful, he would have been the only Democratic candidate in District 72. He would have been able to skip his primary and would have been guaranteed a place on the general-election ballot with Republican candidate Charlie Mellies in a district heavily favorable to Democrats because of voter registration. Bonham said he plans to appeal the board’s decision on Hanes’ candidacy to the NC Board of Elections.
As the five-hour hearing wore on, tensions among the candidates frayed. Patterson told the board during his sworn testimony that he wanted it stated for the record that Bonham had attempted to provoke him and Hanes into a physical confrontation during one of the breaks. After the hearing, Patterson referred reporters to Hanes, to whom he said Bonham’s remark had been specifically directed. Hanes declined to comment.
Dills noted the apparent tension and asked Patterson and Bonham whether they felt the board needed to bring in a sergeant at arms to maintain security. Both candidates stated they did not believe that would be necessary. Later, Dills asked Bonham to get his hand out of Patterson’s face. Bonham had been giving testimony at a podium as Patterson sat with his wife nearby.
The board’s deliberations over whether Hanes met the residency qualifications to be a candidate in District 72 centered on whether he intends to make his permanent residence there.
Hanes testified that he and his wife own a residence in Asheboro, but he moved in with his 80-year-old father in 2008 after his mother died. His wife and daughters stayed behind in Asheboro, and only recently have they rejoined him in Winston-Salem. Initially, the purpose of the move had been to act as a caregiver, but in 2010 Hanes said he decided to move back to Winston-Salem for good, and he submitted a real estate listing to the board showing that he put his Asheboro house on the market at that time. The Haneses also own a condominium in Durham, which they rent out. Hanes said they are underwater on both the Asheboro and Durham mortgages.
Hanes said his wife and children now live with him in Winston-Salem, although one of his daughters attends Agape Christian Academy in Asheboro. Hanes said in response to Bonham’s expressed skepticism that he and his wife transport their daughter to school every day from Winston-Salem to Asheboro. Flatow indicated he saw nothing out of the ordinary about keeping a child at her current school through the end of the academic year during a transition. Hanes also presented a letter from an assistant principal indicating that his daughter has been accepted at a charter school in Winston-Salem.
Hanes also told the board his family has lived in Winston-Salem since 1900, and that he has lived or worked in the city for roughly three decades out of his 39 years.
The three board members concurred that Hanes meets the first two criteria of residency under state law — abandonment of a former domicile and the acquisition of a new domicile — but Dills said he believed that Hanes had not met the statutory requirement to prove the intent of making the newer domicile permanent. Under state law, the challenged candidate is required to meet the burden of proof.
The house on Pomeroy Drive in Winston-Salem where Ed Hanes Jr. stays with his father is owned by Ed Hanes Sr. Hanes said that he might buy the house at some point or a sister might move in with his father and Hanes might buy a house in another part of Winston-Salem if he’s able to sell the house in Asheboro. Dills said those circumstances undercut the notion that Hanes intends to make the Pomeroy Drive house a permanent domicile.
“The reasons for him going into his father’s home were care; he started with that,” Dills said. “And it’s completely admirable and respected by everybody, but insufficient to establish the permanency requirement.”
Hanes argued that times have changed, and the board should interpret the statute in light of new circumstances created by the foreclosure crisis.
“If you determine what permanent means today based on yesterday’s standards, you are, in fact, disenfranchising me in 2012,” he told the board. “I could be there for the next five years and I would never be able to run for office because this committee today has disenfranchised me because I can’t afford to have three mortgages. Because we’re just like everybody else. And I know I’m here in my fancy suit and tie, and people think what they think about me in terms of what I have and what I don’t have, but at the end of the day I’m just like normal people. We’re just like normal people. We got caught in a situation that there’s nothing we can do about.”
“Although the home is owned by Mr. Hanes’ father, it does not in my mind disqualify him as a resident of District 72,” he said. “We can discuss many hypotheticals, but today it is not unusual for many families to be in transition based on job opportunities and other factors that create different family situations than many of us were used to in the past. Children and their families living with parents today is not unusual. Nobody can predict the future. So what is a reasonable burden to demonstrate candidate permanency? The question comes down to the intent, and I feel confident that Mr. Hanes, to the best of what he knows today, has intent to remain at his Pomeroy address, and therefore I believe he should be qualified to seek the office of District 72.”
Notwithstanding Flatow’s vote in support of Hanes, he called the case “a very, very close call.”
Sutton, who chairs the board, cited documentation of Hanes residency at the Pomeroy Drive address as evidence that he intends to make it his permanent domicile.
“When I think about the intent of making the new domicile a permanent domicile, whether it’s in an apartment, whether it’s with your father, the intent, I think, is what we have to look at,” she said. “And I believe that there has been enough evidence, enough documentation from where he’s trying to sell the house, the neighbor’s affidavit stating he’s seen him there for years and years and has always seen his car in the driveway, from his driver’s license for a couple years with that address, to the tax returns and changing you address at Winston-Salem State [University], the mail that’s coming to the house in your name, the letter from the school that you’re trying to get your daughter enrolled in — there’s so much evidence, to me, that pointed to me that he really intended to make this his permanent residence.”
Patterson and his wife, Tamica, attended the hearing together. Patterson, who is 40, prefaced his remarks about his residency by telling the board that he and his wife have been married for 18 years, and have been together for 24.
Bonham’s challenge noted that Patterson filed as a candidate for District 72 using a Renigar Street address, but that his wife resides at a Patterson Avenue address. The board quickly established that both addresses are located in District 72, and members expressed interest in moving on to an additional question raised by Bonham about whether Patterson resides at a Rural Hall address, which is located in District 74.
“Fortunately, I’m in a position to have two homes,” Patterson said, “but they’re both in District 72.”
Patterson said his family leased the house in Rural Hall and lived there until November 2010, when they closed on the Poindexter Avenue house in Winston-Salem. He said he then moved to the house on Renigar Street, also in Winston-Salem, in July 2011. He told the board he has a lease-to-own agreement for the Renigar Street house and presented a sworn affidavit from owner Charles W. Moore stating that the family has lived there since July. When he went to file as a candidate in late February, Patterson acknowledged that he changed his voter registration from the Rural Hall address to the Renigar Street address, explaining that he hadn’t realized before that it was out of date.
Patterson said he and his family decided to take on the second Winston-Salem home when his elderly aunt, who has Parkinson’s disease, had a health crisis and he was unable to respond as quickly as he would have liked. Patterson said the Renigar Street house is also advantageous because it’s close to athletic programs in which his children participate, close to the local NAACP office in which he presides and represents as an attorney, and closer to his church.
During the hearing, Bonham introduced some innuendo about infidelity, causing Tamica Patterson’s jaw to drop.
“Mr. Patterson has had another wife,” Bonham said before Dills interrupted him.
“This board is not interested in speculation,” Dills said. “We’re not interested in innuendo. We’re not interested in spouse, polygamy and such. I want you to, please, restrict your comments respectfully to probative evidence that speaks to the issue of domicile.”