Kim Strach firing tells all we need to know about what Roy Cooper means by “nonpartisan”

  • The firing of Kim Strach was a hypocritical partisan act by Gov. Roy Cooper’s State Board of Elections (SBOE) at the behest of his political team
  • Changes at the SBOE leave the board vulnerable to a return to past ties with leftist groups
  • Strach’s firing is part of a larger attempt by Gov. Cooper and his allies to create an electoral system that would expand his power

The firing of Board of Elections Executive Director Kim Strach last week exposed the hypocrisy of Gov. Roy Cooper and his allies about their supposed desire for nonpartisanship in how North Carolina elections are conducted. It could also cause the board to slip back into some bad habits.

Rank hypocrisy on partisanship in elections

The executive director serves at the pleasure of the Board of Elections. The current board was appointed by Gov. Cooper, so he is within his legal authority to have an SBOE executive director of his preference. However, as noted by observers from across the state, the moved smacks of petty politics and hypocrisy.

The executive director position is officially nonpartisan and everyone on the SBOE indicated that Strach was both fair and highly competent. The News and Observer editorial board called the official rationale offered for Strach’s firing, that she was not the right fit for training local elections boards, unconvincing.

We now know that Gov. Cooper’s reelection team had a hand in the process that got Strach fired. SBOE Chairman Bob Cordle conferred with Gov. Cooper’s “political folks”, including political strategists Morgan Jackson, to make sure that Brinson Bell’s hiring “would be acceptable” to Cooper.

Democratic Party chair Wayne Goodwin tried to provide political cover for Cooper’s indefensible action and managed to make things worse. Faced with a dearth of rationales for Strach’s firing, Goodwin resulted to character assassination and guilt by association. The most damning charge Goodwin and his staff could think of to hit Strach with was her husband’s job:

Statement from Democratic Party Chair Wayne Goodwin on the North Carolina Board of Election firing of Kim Strach.

My colleague Leah Byers pointed out how reprehensible Goodwin’s attack was: “…there is no excuse for a major political party to say a woman should be fired based on the work of her husband and the party of the governor (a man) at the time she was appointed.”

That both of Cooper’s SBOE appointees and his Democratic allies failed to offer convincing rationales for firing Strach exposes the move as base partisanship and belies his frequent claims of wanting to remove partisan politics from the electoral process.

A potential step backward for the elections board

The new leadership on SBOE was handed an opportunity to further affect the workings of the 2020 elections with the resignation of elections board attorney Joshua Lawson. While Lawson stated in his resignation letter that he was not forced out, he did give the board a charge and a warning:

This agency serves voters best when it chooses accountability over complacency, people over partisanship, and the future over our past. These serious times require nothing less, as you confront real and growing threats to elections security, public trust, and the democratic process.

One thing we certainly do not want in these serious times is a return to how things were under Gary Bartlett, who served as executive director before Strach. During Bartlett’s tenure, SBOE staff coordinated with leftist Democracy NC lobbyist Bob Hall on a political strategy to attack the General Assembly, made an end-run around state election law, and effectively subcontracted voter guide design to Democracy NC’s Hall.

Detail of a screenshot of the Ranked Choice Voting Resource Center’s “about” page.

The board named Karen Brinson Bell as Strach’s replacement. Brinson Bell works for the Ranked Choice Voting Resource Center (RCVRC) along with Gary Bartlett. Yes, that Gary Bartlett. Incredibly, the Democrats on the elections board had offered Bartlett a chance to come back as executive director, but he declined, instead recommending Brinson Bell. This confirmed connection with the NCSBE’s past though the hiring of a Bartlett protege is a worrying sign that the NCSBE is about to lurch back to its old ways.

The goal is control

The firing of Kim Strach is one part of an initiative by Gov. Cooper and his allies to seize complete control of the electoral process in North Carolina. Another part is working its way through the North Carolina court system. Common Cause v. Lewis will likely end up in the Democratic-controlled NC Supreme Court. The North Carolina Democratic Party is one of the plaintiffs in the suit, belying claims from Common Cause (the other primary plaintiff) that the suit is about fairness and nonpartisanship. In fact, the suit is really about gaining more political power for the Left.

The left-wing Independent Weekly is brutally honest about the goal behind Common Cause v. Lewis when it says:

With new districts, Democrats think they’d have a shot at an outright majority—and, if Cooper wins again, their own version of one-party control.

We had over 100 years of almost exclusive one-party rule after the Democrats took control of the electoral process in 1898. With Cooper’s allies running the bureaucracy at the State Board of Elections and a Cooper-friendly NC Supreme Court in control of redistricting, we could very well end up with a version of “nonpartisan” one-party control that gives Gov. Cooper unchecked power.

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Author: Andy Jackson

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