Legislators who called Strach’s replacement “hand-picked” may have been correct after a recent media report linked Roy Cooper’s political strategist to the firing of Kim Strach.
“With Cooper’s handpicked Democrats controlling the Board and Cooper’s handpicked Executive Director controlling the office, the Board of Elections has a crisis of legitimacy, said Senator Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell), Chair of the Senate Committee on Redistricting and Elections in a statement. “The Board will be used as a weapon against the Governor’s political adversaries and a shield for the Governor’s loyal Democrats.”
Hise might be on to something there.
On Monday, Governor Roy Cooper told a reporter from WRAL’s Capitol Connection that he had nothing to do with the ouster of the State Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Strach. However, a report from WRAL on Saturday indicates that Cooper had to have had some knowledge of the plan to fire Strach.
On May 15, WRAL posted a video to their Facebook page of Governor Roy Cooper denying that he had any involvement in Strach’s firing.
WRAL reporter: Can I get you to speak to the removal of Kim Strach at the Board of Elections – why that was important to do?
Cooper: Well that was a decision of the State Board. The Board bears the responsibility to make sure that elections are conducted fairly and securely and making sure that everybody has an easy opportunity to vote. So the Board should make sure that it has the staff that it is most comfortable with to make sure that those things happen.
Reporter: What conversations though did you or top members of your administration have…
Cooper: I did not have any conversations on this. And I think this is something that a new board that is set up needs to make sure they have the staff that works for them.
Reporter: But surely your appointees want to do what you want them to do in this arena?
Cooper: I want them to make sure that elections are conducted fairly and securely and that people have opportunities to vote and that we’re not putting up roadblocks in the way of people and that was my charge to this board.
Reporter: Your administration did not ask for her removal at any point?
Cooper: I’ve not done that. No, I have not.
On Saturday, May 18, WRAL reported that Cooper’s political campaign advisor Morgan Jackson “coordinated” with Democrats on the board to fire Strach and helped in naming her replacement.
Morgan Jackson is a partner at Nexus Strategies, which he co-founded with Scott Falmlen. Jackson’s bio says he is “a longtime advisor to Governor Roy Cooper.” Falmlen served as Cooper’s gubernatorial campaign treasurer and is a former executive director for both the North Carolina Democratic Party (1999-2005) and the Florida Democratic Party (1995-1999).
Gary Bartlett, former Board of Elections Director from 1993-2013, is the source of that information.
“Bartlett said the Cooper administration, through the governor’s lead political strategist, Morgan Jackson, asked him for a name.”
Given this information, the idea that Cooper had no conversations about such an important move being orchestrated by his campaign strategist seems highly unlikely.
This revelation of a back and forth between Jackson, Cordle, and Bartlett implies an end-run around the official channels of the Governor’s office and given Roy Cooper’s historic non-use of email, any conversations that might have occurred on the subject between Jackson and Cooper would not show up in a records request.
Who else besides Bartlett perhaps knew what was going on? Maybe the now-former General Counsel Josh Lawson? He resigned when the board dismissed Strach.
Bartlett was replaced by Strach in 2013 after a number of questionable activities between Barlett and the far-left Democracy Alliance’s Bob Hall targeting Republicans in the legislature came to light.
The WRAL article says that Barlett was apparently offered by Cordle to take his job back from Strach, but Bartlet turned it down. Bartlett offered Cordle the name of Karen Brinson-Bell, his subordinate at “Rank Choice Voting.”
Rank Choice Voting advocates for a method of voting where voters “rank candidates in order of preference” on a ballot. According to the group’s website, Brinson-Bell was in charge of two instant runoff (IRV) elections in 2007 and 2009 for the City of Hendersonville. Use of such a system was removed in state election system overhauls in 2013.
Ranked Choice Voting is a project of a left-leaning national group called Fair Vote, whose current focus is a campaign to abolish the Electoral College.