The Onslow County Board of Elections announced the canvass results of the Nov. 5 election on Friday, and the most votes for North Topsail Beach mayor went to write-in candidate Joann McDermon.
McDermon received 126 write-in votes, or 58% of the total, while incumbent NTB mayor Dan Tuman received 80 votes, or 37%.
However, Tuman is protesting the outcome of the election due to McDermon appearing on the ballot for the NTB Board of Alderman race while also running a campaign for mayor as a write-in candidate. Tuman’s complaint is that McDermon should not be allowed to run for two positions in one election, according to BOE Chairman Mike Morgan.
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Tuman brought his complaint to the BOE on Thursday. With the county attorney, Brett DeSelms, the board reviewed the law on one candidate running for two different positions.
"It seems to be that you can not find that the law does not allow that to be done," Morgan said. "It does not specifically allow it or disallow it."
With the lack of a law regarding the issue, Morgan said the county board of elections decided there was no reason not to accept the final votes in favor of McDermon.
"Based on those general statutes, they decided to dismiss the matter because there was nothing in writing that said what had occurred was illegal," BOE Director Jason Dedmond said.
The board signed an order Friday to dismiss the complaint.
"I already knew that someone filing for one position and running a write-in campaign for another was OK according to advice that I got from the State Board of Elections," Dedmond said.
Tuman will appeal the decision to the N.C. State Board of Elections, he said. The appeal process with the state board of elections will be similar to the county board, according to Morgan. If he is denied at that level, he can take the appeal to the superior court. Tuman said the law is "fairly clear" that one candidate can not run for two different offices.
"My reading of the law and my attorney’s reading of law is that’s not allowed and that’s why it’s being repealed," Tuman said.
Although the canvass results were made official today Dedmond believes if there is a protest, newly elected officials cannot assume office until the state board has given a decision on the protest.
"From what I have heard, whoever is in, stays in until the matter is resolved," Dedmond said.
Based on this, Tuman will remain mayor of NTB until the state board of elections gives a decision on the protest.
After the canvass, which combines all ballots cast in an election with election day votes, McDermon received even more votes, according to Dedmond. He said it was unusual for a write-in candidate to win, even taking out the fact that McDermon was also running for Alderman.
"It’s very rare for a write-in to win," Dedmond said. "It’s very hard to run a write-in campaign and win just because it’s a lot easier to bubble in a name than to have someone remember your name and write it in on election day."
McDermon also received the most votes in the Alderman ballot. According to Dedmond, if McDermon elects to take the mayor position, which she has indicated she will do, the mayor and board would vote on the open Alderman seat.
"They would decide who gets that seat," Dedmond said.
McDermon did not immediately respond for a comment.
Reporter Kevin Vandenburg can be reached at 910-219-8453 or email@example.com.