Aug 30, 2022 - Politics

How a candidate's home factors into control of NC's state legislature

Illustration of a checkmark over a square changing into a question mark.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

As Republicans and Democrats have fought for control of North Carolina's state legislature in recent years, they have repeatedly weaponized a residency law requiring candidates to live in their districts that could deem their opponents ineligible to run.

Context: Year after year, the parties have sought to prove that some candidates don't meet that requirement and are living outside their district, despite claiming otherwise.

  • It's an argument that's difficult to prove, and many challenges ultimately fail. But Republicans are giving it another stab this year, and this time, it could help them tighten their grip on the state legislature.

Driving the news: Republicans allege Democrat Valerie Jordan — a candidate for state Senate District 3 — lives in Raleigh, instead of Warren, where she registered to vote in 2020. Jordan registered there in December 2020, after voting in Wake County elections from 1998 through November 2020.

  • The State Board of Elections plans to consider the case on Friday.
  • If Republicans succeed and the board disqualifies Jordan, Democrats will need to nominate someone else to run in her place.

Why it matters: If Jordan's opponent, Republican state Rep. Bobby Hanig, wins this seat in November, Republicans will likely have a supermajority in the Senate, giving them enough votes to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's vetoes.

  • Republicans need to pick up just two seats for a supermajority in the Senate, and Jordan's race is one of the key seats the party has targeted to flip.

What we're watching: This case will gauge the degree to which voters care about residency requirements. Republicans argue they're at an advantage whether or not Jordan is on the ballot, given the media attention the case has generated.

  • "Republicans might be better off if she stays on the ballot," a Republican operative working on the race, Nathan Babcock, told Axios.

The big picture: Residency challenges and requirements rank right up there with barbecue in terms of things North Carolinians love to debate and get red-faced mad about. Not living where you say you live can come with consequences that range from public scorn to jail time.

  • Consider this: High school football teams regularly forfeit entire seasons for a player who doesn't live in their assigned district. But Congressional candidates technically are free to live wherever they want and represent any district they wish.

Details: Babcock argues the case is clear cut. For weeks, the party staked out Jordan's Raleigh home, which she's owned since 1998. Photos provided by Babcock show her car was parked in the driveway for 23 straight days.

The other side: In a statement to WRAL, Jordan said she lives in Warren County.

  • "Warrenton is my home, where I pray on Sunday and where I host our family dinners," Jordan said. "Anyone that would suggest that I don't live in Warrenton clearly doesn't know Warrenton, which is exactly what's wrong with Raleigh politicians like Bobby Hanig."

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