Oct 21, 2022 - News

Another Senate candidate residency challenge

Illustration of the North Carolina Legislative Building with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

North Carolina Democrats are alleging a Republican state Senate candidate running in one of the most competitive seats does not live in the district he’s running in, as required by state law.

  • In an election protest filed Wednesday, a self-described activist alleges District 18 candidate E.C. Sykes lives in a Raleigh rental home south of the district he's running to represent. As a result, Sykes is ineligible to run for election in the district, the protest argues.

Context: Sykes, a Republican who ran in 2020 for NC Secretary of State, is running against Democrat Mary Wills Bode in a hotly contested race to represent northern Wake and Granville counties.

Why it matters: The district — Senate District 18 — is one of the most competitive in the state and could decide whether Republicans claim a supermajority in the legislature.

Yes, but: Because the protest was filed so close to the election, Wake County's elections board will not consider it until after Nov. 8.

  • Under state law, the winner of the race will not be certified until the issue is resolved.

Zoom out: The complaint against Sykes is also similar to one Republicans filed in August, alleging Democratic state Senate candidate Valerie Jordan, who is running against Republican Rep. Bobby Hanig in the northeastern part of the state, lives in Raleigh rather than the district she said she lives in.

Details: Sykes is registered to vote at an address within his district, where there is only a vacant lot. Photos included in the protest show a camper on the property, where Sykes said he lives with his wife while they're building a home there.

  • The complaint alleges Sykes does not have electricity in his camper and says multiple neighbors attested that they have not seen anyone staying at the camper on a regular basis.
  • "As recently as September and October Mr. Sykes was observed regularly leaving the house at Harps Mill Road in the morning and returning in the evening; there is still an American flag flying at the house; lights go on and off at different times, confirming that Mr. Sykes continues to spend his nights at the house,” the complaint alleges, referencing a rental house he regularly visits.

What they're saying: "This is a very serious concern,” Bode told Axios. "I trust that the Wake County Board of Elections will fully investigate it. The citizens of Senate District 18 deserve to know the truth. Candidates should follow the rules."

The other side: "Here are the facts: my wife and I contracted to purchase adjoining lots where we planned to build our home last year — before Senate maps came out, much less when the maps were finalized by the Supreme Court earlier this year," Sykes said in a statement.

  • "During construction, we have been living in a trailer, as seen in the photos the Democratic operative took over the last few weeks. We have been living there since last fall; it has electricity, gas, water, and Wi-Fi. I’m registered to vote there. My wife and I have hosted our grandsons there for extended visits."

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