Apparently, the State Board of Elections is about to replace Kim Strach as executive director. I’m not surprised, but I wish they wouldn’t. Strach has served the state well, putting her job and her obligations before any partisan considerations. Her handling of the investigation in NC-09 should make the state proud. Despite pressure from high-profile Republican leaders, she and her team kept their heads down and did their jobs without influence. Their meticulous investigation and questioning of witnesses like Mark Harris exposed the fraud and led to the new election in NC-09.
However, Strach and company are political appointments. Pat McCrory appointed her to the position and, if the legislature hadn’t tried to take over the Board of Elections, she probably would have been gone long ago. In politics today, not many political appointees from the other party survive very long. Strach stayed longer than most.
In addition, Strach oversees elections at a time when Republicans across the country are trying to reshape elections by altering the electorate. In North Carolina, voter suppression laws have made voting more difficult for older citizens, especially people of color. Democrats will want somebody in the position who puts as much emphasis on protecting voting rights as rooting out fraud. Strach came to the position as the lead investigator for the SBOE.
Strach’s husband is also an attorney defending the GOP’s voter suppression bills in court. That left many Democrats suspicious of her loyalties. I’d argue that she has proven that her loyalties lie with her responsibilities to the people of this state. That won’t wash with the most hardcore partisans, though.
We’re no longer in an age where Democrats appoint Republicans and vice-versa. Republicans made that clear when they canned UNC President Tom Ross for no other reason than he was a registered Democrat. Gone are the days when a Democrat like Governor Jim Hunt would appoint a Republican like Phil Kirk as Chair of the State Board of Education. Partisanship is now a determining qualification for appointed positions.
I hope Strach’s successor, rumored to be Karen Brinson Bell, takes her job as seriously as Strach did hers. I thank Strach for her service to the state and the professionalism she and her staff exhibited. Our State Board of Elections should have no agenda other than ensuring fair and open elections.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >