What happens when you get elected to a job you said you didn’t want? If you’re Mark Crawford, you take it anyway. But that decision doesn’t sit well with Crawford’s opponent, Ben “Chip” Craig, who filed a formal election protest Friday.
Crawford won the most votes in Tuesday’s election to represent the Owen school district on the Buncombe County Board of Education. With 18,360 votes, Crawford beat Craig, who had 14,417 votes, and two other candidates.
A former member of the N.C. House and a past candidate for the school board and other public offices, Crawford garnered the most votes despite his announcement on Oct. 1 that he was withdrawing from the race. He filed paperwork to that effect with the Buncombe County Board of Elections, but just one month before the election, his name remained printed on local ballots.
In an interview Friday, Crawford said that at the time he withdrew, he thought he would have a conflict of interest. That conflict didn’t materialize, Crawford said, and when the vote tally came in Tuesday night, he decided he would take the seat. Crawford is an adjunct political science professor at Western Carolina University and a substitute teacher in county schools.
“I just honestly felt it was my duty to serve,” he said.
Craig, the owner of Greybeard Realty in Black Mountain, said Friday that he “completely changed” the way he campaigned after Crawford’s withdrawal. Craig said he cut back on newspaper advertising, scaled down personal contacts he was making and didn’t have any volunteers working polling places on Election Day.
In his protest filed with the elections board, Craig asks that he be declared the winner of the Owen district seat. He cites state law, which states: “If a candidate in a nonpartisan election dies, becomes disqualified or withdraws before election day and after the ballots have been printed, the board of elections shall determine whether there is enough time to reprint the ballots. If there is not enough time to reprint the ballots, and should the deceased or disqualified candidate receive enough votes to be elected, the board of elections shall declare the office vacant, and it shall be filled as provided by law.”
“I would be so excited to serve on this board and would be very disappointed if I were not to serve,” said Craig, who has two children in the Buncombe County school system and has done volunteer work in local schools. “I can’t think of a better use of my time outside of work to be involved in education.”
Director Trena Parker said the elections board will hold a hearing to decide the issue.
Go to the Xpress Files to read Craig’s election protest filed Friday with the Buncombe County Board of Elections.
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor