Tuesday morning, the McDowell County Board of Elections voted unanimously that Doug McCraw is eligible to run for re-election this year to one of the Marion seats on the Board of Education.
The Board of Elections held a candidate challenge hearing at the new office at 2458 N.C. 226 South in Marion. The eligibility of McCraw was the only issue to be decided at the hearing. County Attorney Fred Coats was present to answer any legal questions. All those who spoke before the board had to be sworn in that what they were saying was the truth.
First, the elections board heard from David Patneaude who raised the question of whether or not McCraw was eligible to run for the Marion seat back in 2016 or to seek re-election in 2020. Patneaude said he is now the chairman of the McDowell County Republican Party and several people brought to his attention that McCraw was not eligible to run for the Marion seat in either year. The Board of Education is a non-partisan body.
Patneaude said in 2016 McCraw listed his residence as McKinney Road, which is in the Pleasant Gardens District, but ran for the one of the Marion District seats on the School Board.
“That should not have happened,” Patneaude said to the Elections Board. “He could have made a mistake. But when you make a mistake, you need to go back and correct it.”
Patneaude added he had the maps from the school system’s bus garage, which shows where the districts are located in McDowell. “The bus maps are the correct maps,” he said.
In addition, Patneaude said McCraw changed his residence to Justice Road during the time when there was a similar controversy about School Board member Randy Williams and whether or not Williams lived in McDowell County, North Carolina or someplace in California.
“You have to question the character and integrity for this to be going on for four years,” he said to the Elections Board.
In response, McCraw said McDowell has two McKinney Roads, one in West Marion and one in Pleasant Gardens. He showed the board a real estate listing for a property on the McKinney Road where he said he once lived and it has West Marion Elementary as the appropriate school for that location. He said he moved to 111 Justice Road, off Airport Road, in 2016 to help care for his aging mother who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. That is still his home and it is in the correct district, he added.
“I can assure you gentleman and lady I am 100 percent eligible to run from my home,” he said to the Elections Board.
McCraw asked School Board member Bob Brackett to speak as a character witness.
Brackett said McKinney Road is where McCraw’s business is located and he lives at Justice Road. McCraw owns several homes in McDowell County, according to Brackett.
“The whole thing is going back to his domicile,” said Brackett. “That is what this gentleman is questioning.”
Looking at Patneaude, Brackett asked, “Have you been to his domicile?”
Board of Elections Chairman Dean Buff said the issue to be determined today is whether McCraw is eligible to run for a Marion seat in 2020.
“This is about now,” he said. “It is not about 2016.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” said McCraw. “I live at 111 Justice Road. My business is at McKinney Road.”
Elections Director Kim Welborn said to The McDowell News that 111 Justice Road is in the Marion district.
“I don’t see any intent here to defraud the people of McDowell County,” said Board of Elections Secretary Jim Hachadurian.
Board member Della Watson asked Patneaude why he didn’t first address this issue with McCraw.
“I wanted to do it in the proper manner, which is what I have done,” said Patneaude.
McCraw asked Patneaude who was accusing him of doing something wrong. “I have the right to face my accusers. Who are these people?” he asked.
“People that you know well,” said Patneaude.
After hearing from both sides, the Board of Elections voted unanimously that McCraw lives in the correct district to run for a Marion seat on the School Board.
On Thursday, Buff said that when McCraw first ran in 2016 for a Marion seat and gave his address as McKinney Road but that road was located in the Pleasant Gardens district. He added that was not McCraw’s fault because the election maps were inaccurate. Buff said McCraw is eligible to run for the Marion seat in 2020 now that his address is Justice Road and McCraw brought proof to the Board of Elections that this is his home address.