Challenge to mayoral election gets court date

Incumbent was sworn in for 4th term in Mount Airy

May 22, 2002|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A court challenge to Mount Airy's recent mayoral election - in which the incumbent was declared the winner despite claims that a write-in candidate garnered more votes - has been set for trial this summer.

Mayor Gerald R. Johnson was sworn in for a fourth term Thursday, the day that two supporters of write-in candidate James S. Holt filed a civil lawsuit in Carroll County Circuit Court. Plaintiffs Michael Boyer and Constance S. McKain are asking that all ballots containing the name Holt be counted - which would give Holt the election, they said.

Election officials noted that six other people named Holt live in town and said before the election that they would not accept the last name only, but would accept six variations. The town charter has no specific language that outlines requirements for write-in votes or for contested elections, and state law does not apply.

At a hearing yesterday, Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. set a July 22 trial date and gave attorneys until June 28 to exchange information in the case.

No requests are pending for court orders, such as an injunction, said J. Brooks Leahy, representing the plaintiffs, and Richard C. Murray, the town's attorney. Leahy said Johnson would be added as a defendant in the civil action, and both attorneys have said the mayor would step down if the plaintiffs succeed.

After the election May 6, the town's Board of Elections declared Johnson the winner with 492 votes to Holt's 311, and it upheld that decision May 15.

Holt supporters said the board disqualified 259 ballots because they contained only their candidate's last name, which would have given him the victory if counted.

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