USDOJ pre-clears Kinston nonpartisan elections

Late Friday, the USDOJ pre-cleared Kinston nonpartisan elections.  Read: USDOJ Letter Pre-Cleared 2012-02-10

Here are some of my thoughts:

As someone who went door to door collecting signatures for the nonpartisan ballot, I feel a sense of vindication today.  The previous city council not only wouldn’t allow the measure on the ballot in 2009, but wouldn’t even appeal USDOJ’s decision when two-thirds of their citizens voted for it.  This is a victory for the citizens of Kinston!  However, after reading the final letter from USDOJ pre-clearing Kinston to have nonpartisan elections in 2013, I’m actually disgusted at the politics played by the Obama and Holder administration and I hope this issue isn’t over.  Let me explain.

The centerpiece of USDOJ’s reason for flip-flopping on this issue is built upon a very weak argument.  The “information that is now available” includes the fact that the census over the last decade (2000-2010) shows an increase in registered black voters from 58.8 to 65.0 percent.  However, the USDOJ fails to mention the fact that there’s been little to no change (0.4%) in that same demographic from 2009 (when the vote in question took place) to 2011 (when the school board submitted data from the 2011 elections).  In their own letter, dated August 17, 2009, they acknowledge that 64.6% of the city’s registered voters were African-American.  Yet, in the new decision they center their argument around the fact that the number is now 65.4%.  And, that’s what they call “a substantial change in operative fact”?

The USDOJ also fails to simply admit that ANY population, which has a majority of the registered voters in an area, is more than capable of electing candidates of choice.  They want to avoid this discussion because it calls in to question the validity of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

The USDOJ even has the audacity to point out that the 2011 City elections had a majority of black voters, who coincidentally elected the first majority black city council.  Certainly we can celebrate the latter, but that has been possible for about two decades in Kinston.  And what electoral process change occurred from 2009 to 2011 to allow that to happen? None.  The people voted to make that happen.

The USDOJ should have listened to the WILL OF THE PEOPLE when two-thirds of our community voted to have nonpartisan elections in the first place.  If that had been the case, then the 2011 city elections would’ve been nonpartisan.  Meaning the city taxpayers would’ve saved roughly $20,000 in primary election costs.

The current litigation LaRoque, et. al. versus Holder doesn’t just challenge the USDOJ’s decision in Kinston’s nonpartisan case, it actually challenges the fact that we still have to be pre-cleared at all. By USDOJ’s own admission, Kinston has proven that the black population can elect “candidates of choice.”

The USDOJ will use their new-found approval as an argument for the courts to dismiss that same litigation. However, the challenge should actually receive a boost in it’s argument since the USDOJ has flip-flopped based on their interpretation of “information that is now available.”  They simply have built a house of cards to appease politicos and not Lady Justice.

This certainly strengthens John Nix’s argument that he, as an unaffiliated candidate, is discriminated against by the very law (Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act) that is meant to protect minorities.  And, USDOJ has probably done more to ensure this should go to the Supreme Court than they have in trying to undo this mess that they created.

There was no “shift in electoral pattern” from 2009 to 2011 as cited by USDOJ as a reason to flip-flop on their decision.  This is pure politics by the Obama and Holder administrations to attempt avoiding the constitutionality challenge of the pre-clearance process altogether.

For more background on this issue, visit: https://bjmurphy.org/mayor-murphy-responds-to-usdoj-letter-regarding-nonpartisan-elections/

Mayor Murphy responds to USDOJ letter regarding nonpartisan elections

USDOJ Letter Reconsidering Info 2012-01-30

Response from Mayor Murphy (signed .pdf) – 2012-02-02
Response from Mayor Murphy (text): 

City of Kinston
Office of the Mayor
207 E. King Street | Kinston, NC  28501

February 2, 2012

Thomas E. Perez
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
Room 7254 – NWB
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Mr. Perez:

On February 16, 2009, I sent your office a letter as a private citizen regarding the change to nonpartisan elections with a plurality-vote requirement.  The letter asked your office to uphold the two-thirds majority vote by the citizens of Kinston, NC to change from a partisan to nonpartisan municipal system.  The same year Kinston chose Barack Obama as President, Kinston decided by a 4,924 to 2,756 vote to remove political labels and vote for candidates of choice.   However, Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General, stated “I cannot conclude that the city has sustained its burden of showing that the proposed changes do not have a retrogressive effect…I object to the voting changes on behalf of the Attorney General.” 

In your January 30, 2012 letter, you reference new data from the 2011 municipal elections and minuscule changes in demographics over the past decade.  And, because of that information, your office seems to be wavering in its biased interpretation of an unconstitutional law.  Never mind the fact that the USDOJ’s initial decision is also being challenged and could end up at the United States Supreme Court, a ruling that could strike down Section 5 altogether.  The Attorney General, who was in office during the initial conclusion, seems ready to change his opinion to the exact same thing that 64% of municipal voters concluded three years ago.  This preposterous attempt at trying to weasel out of a legitimate court battle to save face is yet another example of Washington imposing its will over the will of the people. 

 

USDOJ Letter, Page 2

In the humble opinion of this mayor, the USDOJ abused Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act by overturning an overwhelming majority of voters who supported this change by simply ignoring the fact that we are AND continue to be a minority-majority community.  The USDOJ has failed to prove that anyone in these modern times has ever been denied the right to vote based on the color of their skin or the party they choose to affiliate with.  Whether someone decides to cast a vote or not, it is their decision and not the responsibility of the federal government to impose unconstitutional and subjective credentials for an election.

Now that the US Attorney General’s office seems to be flip-flopping its opinions, it bolsters the need for a legal ruling by our nation’s highest court.  I would urge the USDOJ and any parties involved with the legal proceedings to continue litigation until the United States Supreme Court rules on this matter.   Quite simply, the USDOJ seems to be caving under the threat of sound litigation that Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional and being abused by this administration to hand pick winners and losers.

Respectfully,

BJ Murphy
Mayor, City of Kinston

Letter as a private citizen: Letter to USDOJ Nonpartisan 2009-02-16 – Signed

BACKGROUND, with stories from:
Kinston Free Press
Washington Times
National Review Online
Fox News
Rush Limbaugh
Sean Hannity/Griff Jenkins

USDOJ reconsiders Kinston nonpartisan elections

The United States Department of Justice sent the City of Kinston the following letter regarding its previous decision on nonpartisan elections. 

USDOJ Letter Reconsidering Info 2012-01-30

Mayor Murphy’s Response 2012-02-12

 

Background:
Kinston Free Press
Washington Times – Justice concludes black voters need Democratic Party 2009-10-20
National Review Online – The Politics of (In)Justice by Hans A 2009-09-28
FOXNews – Justice Says N.C. City Must Have Party Affiliations to Protect Black Voters 2009-10-20
Rush Limbaugh – Holder Edict: The US Constitution Compels the Election of Democrats
Sean Hannity/Griff Jenkins – YouTube video (poor audio)

US Court of Appeals Overturns Decision on Nonpartisan Lawsuit vs. Eric Holder

Today, Judge Tatel with the United States Court of Appeals, issued the opinion of a three judge appeals panel concerning LaRoque, et al., vs. Holder, et al.  The ruling overturned a district court, which stated that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring the lawsuit, among other statements.

In a November 2008 referendum, the residents of Kinston, North Carolina, voted by an almost two to-one margin to switch from partisan to nonpartisan elections for mayor and city council. Absent section 5, Kinston’s city council would have had a duty under North Carolina law to amend the city’s charter to implement the referendum. But since Kinston lies in Lenoir County, a covered jurisdiction, it may not implement the referendum until precleared by federal authorities.

According to the decision, “Kinston’s residents could have voted to retain partisan elections, but since they chose otherwise, [John] Nix [Unaffiliated candidate for Kinston City Council] has acognizable interest in reaping the benefits he claims would flow from the nonpartisan system.”

“He [Nix] alleges that absent section 5, the Kinston city council would have a state-law duty to implement the voter referendum—an interpretation of North Carolina law that neither the Attorney General nor intervenors challenge.”

“In sum, a judgment declaring section 5 unconstitutional would remove the federal barrier to the implementation of the nonpartisan referendum, and absent that barrier, there is no reason to believe that the Kinston city council would refrain from carrying out its state-law duty to put the referendum, which the Attorney General’s objection did not and could not nullify, into effect. As a result, Nix has established that his alleged injuries would likely be redressed by a decision in his favor.”

“For the foregoing reasons, we reverse the district court’s dismissal of count one, vacate its dismissal of count two, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. So ordered.”

Read the full opinion:  DC Circuit Opinion 2011-07-08

Background stories from the Kinston Free Press
Background blog posts on BJMurphy.org

WASHINGTON TIMES Original Article
RUSH LIMBAUGH Reacts to Original Story

KFP: Murphy leads in campaign contributions

By Junious Smith III / Staff Writer 

With Election Day 33 days away, in the Kinston mayor race the incumbent has a huge advantage — at least when it comes to campaign contributions.

Mayor B.J. Murphy has outraised and outspent his two competitors — Ralph Clark and John Marks — looking to unseat him by considerable margins.

In a 35-business day reporting period from July 29 to Sept. 24, Murphy received $12,083.56, including $9,698.56 in contributions from individuals. He spent $10,089.71 during that timeframe.

In comparison, Clark received $4,570.58 and spent $2,881.15. Marks’ numbers are not known, but it’s because he hadn’t filed his receipts and expenditures with the Board of Elections. BOE supervisor Barbara Hammonds said Marks has received and spent significantly less than the other two candidates.

“If the candidate doesn’t go over $1,000 whether it comes to expenditures or contributions, they don’t have to make a report,” Board of Elections Supervisor Barbara Hammonds said.

Murphy felt the amount of money he’s received over his campaign has been a reflection of the citizens of Kinston agreeing with what he stands for in the upcoming election.

“What seems very clear over the number of donations and the amount is that my message of continuing policies putting Kinston in right direction for growth is catching on with the voters,” Murphy said. “We have a campaign centered on engaging the community, having frank discussions on issues and promoting growth on development. All of those points are resonating with the city of Kinston.”

Murphy, in his third mayoral campaign (he won in 2009 after losing in 2005), said his significant Internet presence has also played a role in receiving contributions. As of Wednesday, the incumbent had 4,993 friends on Facebook, 1,244 likes on his “Mayor B.J. Murphy” Facebook page and 978 Twitter followers.

Neither Clark nor Marks had a Twitter account as of Wednesday afternoon. Marks has 341 friends on Facebook and Clark has 126 likes on his “Ralph Clark for Mayor” Facebook page.

Murphy believes social networks are a great outlet to reaching the public.

“To the average person in community, whether they’re struggling to get by or have had moderate success in business, they seem to be connecting with my message of keeping Kinston on right track and continuing the leadership we currently have at City Hall,” Murphy said.

Clark said he hadn’t been focused on the amount of money being spent by his opponents, with his focus strictly on the race.

“We all have different ways of trying to reach the voting public,” Clark said. “I’m not sure if money spent always gives an advantage.”

Clark, a former Kinston City Manager, recently created a Facebook page, but said he has spent much more time interacting with people offline to make a name in the community.

“I’ve had to attend a lot of events and personal handshaking, so people can connect a face to the name,” Clark said. “The mayor started a long time ago with his Facebook pages and he uses technology well. I just opened a Facebook when I filed for mayor and have had it for three months, while he started networking with it five years ago. I’m just trying to make up ground with personal appearances.”

Clark believes the city is listening to what he has to say and giving a warm reception.

“The public has received me and my message very well,” Clark said. “I’m not making any promises other than to work hard. I always tell people, my first line of business is to get the city council to work with my agenda, because if they won’t, it’s hard to make things happen. I also tell them I do have experience and ideas I can bring to the table to make Kinston a better place to live.”

Marks hasn’t spent or received nearly as much as the other candidates, but said he has been doing his part to make himself better known in Kinston.

“I’ve been doing a little footwork, putting signs out and talking to people in the community concerning nonpartisan voting,” Marks said. “I tell them to vote with their heart, and hopefully, they’ll vote for me. I’ve been passing out flyers, getting people to do early voting and have people in place to help spread the word.”

Marks said he may not have a huge social following either, but believes his friends on Facebook will help get his message across.

“Out of that 300, they might have 1,000 or 2,000 friends that will let them know about me as well,” Marks said.

Board of Elections Director Dana King said she thinks the mayoral race will be very interesting.

“Having three mayoral candidates is kind of big, especially when there are only nine precincts in Kinston who can vote for them,” King said.

 

Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.

Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 21:52 PM.

KFP: Three candidates, one mayor’s office

By Junious Smith III / Staff Writer 

The first nonpartisan mayoral election in Kinston comes between three candidates staking their claims to the most visible seat in the city.

B.J. Murphy, Ralph Clark and John Marks are all working on their campaigns in anticipation to become mayor of Kinston after the Nov. 5 election.

Murphy — an incumbent who initially said he wasn’t running for re-election — filed about 45 minutes before the July 19 noon deadline. Murphy said consistency is a key factor in his campaign.

“I plan on bringing continuity to the office and some of the procedures we had been implementing over the last four years, including but not limited to, streets, the redevelopment of Kinston and a sound fiscal policy,” Murphy said.  “Some of the more obvious changes seen during my time include the redevelopment of the Arts and Culture district, the increased amount of funding for street resurfacing and open dialogue with citizens on sensitive issues such as crime, utility rates and ec cetera.”

Although Murphy is the current mayor and had been encouraged by family, friends and supporters to run for a second term, he doesn’t consider himself a favorite in the race.

“I look at this like I’m in last place everyday, and that’s the way I’ll work on the campaign and for the city of Kinston,” Murphy said. “There’s always something more we can achieve. There’s always something we can do better. That’s my perspective on not just the office, but the campaign.”

Clark — the former Kinston city manager with over 30 years of government experience — didn’t expect Murphy to come back to the race, but is undeterred with his campaign.

“I was shocked because he stated publicly he wasn’t going to run, but it’s the political system and we all have the right to change our minds,” Clark said. “It’s hard to develop a strategy until you know who’s running. Now, with Murphy being there and being an incumbent, it makes it much more difficult, but I still plan on working hard and winning.”

Clark also said he’s focused on trying to fix several concerns in the community.

“I think we have to talk a number of issues, like how we can develop jobs,” Clark said. “We have to figure out the right atmosphere and fill empty buildings and houses. We have to look at creative ways to bring jobs into the community and enhance the tax base.

“Some of the things I fought for I’ll continue to fight for such as the new arts district. I think it’s great they’ve taken old Mitchelltown and brought it back to life. I also want to get adequate funds reinvested in our electric system, while working on getting rates more competitive.”

Marks — pastor and founder of Increasing the Praise Ministries on North Queen Street — doesn’t have the political and governmental experience of Murphy or Clark, but believes he can make a difference in the city.

“One of my main platforms is to get the city to be as one, not divided,” Marks said. “I want to see equality for everybody. Economy-wise, we need to have more jobs to come to Kinston besides plants. We also need jobs like restaurants and things we used to have in the 70s like with retail stores and entry-level jobs. This way, the economy and tax base can be more feasible.”

When asked about the re-emergence of Murphy of a candidate, Marks said he wasn’t concerned about who filed and didn’t plan on changing anything on his platform.

“It doesn’t change my strategy,” Marks said. “To me, it didn’t matter who I was going up against. I’m running for the seat that was supposed to be up. Like any other candidate, I’ll be passing out material, knocking on the doors and getting (voters) excited and mobilized. In the past and now, people say Kinston needs new leadership.

“I’m giving 110 percent as I try to become the new mayor of Kinston.”

 

Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.

 

Published: Monday, July 29, 2013 at 20:04 PM.

KFP: An early look at Kinston’s municipal races

By Bryan Hanks, Editor 

Thanks to a flurry of filings in — literally — the 11th hour this week, there are now three candidates for Kinston mayor and eight for the two Kinston City Council seats.

Only a week ago, we were wondering if there were going to be enough folks filing to even fill the ballot for city council. However, thanks to seven candidates joining incumbent Robbie Swinson for the council and B.J. Murphy’s surprising decision to run for re-election against Ralph Clark and John Marks for mayor, we’ll have spirited contests in Kinston’s first nonpartisan municipal races.

Before we take a quick look at those races, a reminder: The Free Press will be holding candidate forums, not just for those contests, but for many others throughout Lenoir, Greene and Jones counties. We’re also going to tape podcasts with candidates in all the races in our coverage areas before the November election.

So, on to some early observations. As always, these prognostications should not be taken as endorsements — they are just some early thoughts about what is shaping up to be a heck of a fun election season.

KINSTON MAYOR’S RACE: Murphy’s re-entry — remember, he announced earlier this year he wasn’t running for re-election — turns an almost certain Clark victory into a true race. The previous statement is made with absolutely no disrespect to Marks, but conventional wisdom dictated that Clark — who had garnered support from both sides of the local political spectrum before Murphy’s announcement — would cruise to the victory against Marks, a relative political neophyte who had previously lost three times in city council races.

Murphy is supremely confident he will win re-election after becoming the city’s first Republican mayor since Reconstruction — and it’s easy to see the source of his confidence. After a “perfect storm” victory in 2009 over two established candidates in Earl Harper and Jimmy Cousins, the personable Murphy has built strong consensus from Democrats and Republicans in his first term as mayor.

He has shown several times he will shed the GOP label and do what’s best for Kinston, regardless of what some local Republicans think might be quasi-blasphemous actions.

But it’s not going to an easy race against Clark, who — as mentioned earlier — has built a strong base of support from the city’s movers and shakers. The former Kinston City Manager didn’t jump into this mayoral race on a whim; he did his homework, talking to many potential opponents (including, ironically, Murphy) to defuse any political problems and opposition. It’s certain Clark didn’t think Murphy would run for re-election, but since he has, we’ll get to see a spirited race.

The wild card here is Marks. It’s almost certain that — just like in 2009 — local Democrats will be split between Clark and Marks, with virtually the entire GOP base supporting Murphy. Even if Clark garners 70 percent of the local Democratic vote (a fair guess, I think), with Murphy and Marks getting the remaining 30, that skews the race again towards Murphy. If this was just Clark vs. Murphy, I think Clark would stand a strong chance of victory; with Marks in the race, I can see Murphy coming away with another win.

KINSTON CITY COUNCIL RACE: Now, THIS is where it gets really fun.

With eight candidates vying for two seats, anything can happen. However, I’m pretty confident that Swinson, who is going for his third term on the council, will be the top vote-getter when Nov. 5 rolls around. That’s the easy prediction; Swinson is well-liked in all parts of Kinston, has done a solid job in his first two terms and has the all-important name recognition factor in his corner. If he doesn’t earn the most votes in November, I’ll be shocked.

However, Swinson is facing some strong opposition, including from another 11th-hour filer who reversed course: John Nix. The local businessman — who lost in his first run for council in 2011 — is best known for being one of the primary forces that brought nonpartisan voting to Kinston. However, like Murphy in the mayor’s race, he announced publicly last month he wasn’t running for city council.

Nonetheless, like Murphy in the mayor’s race, Nix did a 180 on Friday and announced his bid for city council.

Swinson and Nix are joined by six other candidates — Teddra Hussey-Smith, Marc McKnight, Adrien Meadows, Lennie Peterson, Carol Tokarski and Wynn Whittington. Of that sextet, Whittington (a former Kinston High School principal) and Peterson (a former candidate for city council) have the most local name recognition. Of course, that can change a lot between now and November.

Regardless of who wins and loses at the ballot box in November, I hope you join me in thanking these 11 citizens — along with the other candidates in La Grange, Pink Hill, Greene County and Jones County — who care enough about their communities to try to make a difference. They’re not sitting around on their backsides waiting for things to happen; they’re working to try to improve the cities, towns and communities in which they live.

You have earned our respect and admiration.

Bryan C. Hanks is the editor of The Free Press; his column appears in this space every Sunday. You can reach him at 252-559-1074 or at Bryan.Hanks@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BCHanks.

KFP: B.J. Murphy runs for re-election

KFP0720 BJ Murphy Runs 1
Kinston mayor B.J. Murphy files for the mayor’s race on the last day of filing for the 2013 general election with his wife, Jessica, standing by his side. Jean Alphin, deputy director of the Lenoir County Board of Elections, assists Murphy in filing paperwork. Murphy recanted his original decision not to run again for mayor in the 2013 general election and filed for the race about 45 minutes before the noon deadline on Friday.

Sara Pezzoni / The Free Press

By Junious Smith III / Staff Writer 

Published: Friday, July 19, 2013 at 21:49 PM.

Two candidates who continuously said they weren’t running for positions in Kinston government changed their minds and filed shortly before the deadline.

At 11 a.m. — one hour before the filing deadline — John Nix put in his bid to become a member of the city council at the Lenoir County Board of Elections on Friday. Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy did the same thing 12 minutes later, filing for re-election.

Murphy — who is currently serving his first term — was initially going to stay out of the mayoral race and leave it to Ralph Clark and John Marks. Through constant persuasion by his wife and members of the community, Murphy decided to run again.

“My wife, Jessica, talked to me about a month ago, asking me to seriously reconsider and run for re-election,” Murphy said. “The amount of supporters I’ve had in the community has been really humbling.”

Murphy also wrote on his blog Friday, saying “I’ve had a ton of supporters in the community ask me to reconsider via phone calls, text messages and Facebook.”
Murphy believes that his work ethic and familiarity will play a role in his being re-elected.

“One major advantage I have is the continuity in government,” Murphy said. “Over the past four years I’ve been able to make connections and have great relationships with other mayors, governors and senators across the state. I just want to help Kinston become a better place.”

Nix — like Murphy — is looking to do the same in improving Kinston. Although, he lost his first bid for a seat on the city council in 2011, Nix has decided to run again because he believes the city could use his assistance.

“I just reassessed the representation and felt like I had most qualities to help the city attract business, increase the tax base and focus more on infrastructure,” Nix said. “I feel like we should improve more on what we have instead of building more and reprioritize our spending.”

Nix is best known for being part of a group who made a push for nonpartisan elections in Kinston, taking their case to the federal court. With the Supreme Court’s decision to repeal Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act last month — partly because of the case in Kinston — the city will have its first election without need of a primary.

“About 67 percent of the citizens voted for it in 2009 and it took a group of people — myself included — to bring it to where it is today,” Nix said. “It saves the city and county money plus each voter has to look at the candidate instead of the party they represent.”
Nix is excited to run for city council and possibly avenge his loss two years ago.

“I feel good running for city council, because this is something I’ve been fighting for over the past three and a half years,” Nix said. “Still, I don’t equate that into why I’m running. I equate that into what I can do for the city. I love my community and I want to serve.”

Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.

SCOTUS Forces a Change in the Pre-Clearance Formula

Checks and balances do work and today is an example of why we need the Supreme Court of the United States to check the federal government, either the Executive Branch or the Legislative Branch. Today, the voters of Kinston have won…at least temporarily. In 2008, voters in Kinston decided 2-1 that we should have nonpartisan elections. However, we are one of many jurisdictions under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act that requires pre-clearance by the federal government of any voting changes.

One bureaucrat in DC disagreed with the voters of Kinston and did not allow the changes, citing Section 5. This led to a lawsuit against Eric Holder, led by City of Kinston resident John Nix and others. Once this lawsuit gained enough traction the USDOJ reversed their decision, which allowed for nonpartisan elections to begin in 2013. Ultimately, SCOTUS decided to hear a Shelby County, Alabama case instead of Nix v. Holder.

Based on the SCOTUS decision today, it appears that Congress needs to change the formula, which would include the decision as to whether the City of Kinston requires pre-clearance in the future. Until Congress changes the formula, it appears that the voters of Kinston not only have nonpartisan elections, but also do not need to request permission by the federal government to make any voting changes.

To see a history on my blog of this issue, please click here. 

KFP: Sitting down with the mayor

KFP0208_Mayor Murphy Q and A.jpg
Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy kicks off Kinston’s 250th anniversary celebration with a speech last year. Earlier this week, Murphy announced he would not be running for re-election in November.

Zach Frailey / The Free Press

 

 

 

By Bryan Hanks, Managing Editor
Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 21:33 PM.

On Thursday, Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy joined Free Press Managing Editor Bryan Hanks and Columnist Jon Dawson on The Free Press Radio Show to discuss a variety of topics following Murphy’s announcement earlier this week that he wouldn’t be running for re-election.

Following are some of Murphy’s responses to questions from Hanks and Dawson; go to Kinston.com for the complete interview.

The Free Press: How tough was the decision not to run for re-election?

B.J. Murphy: In terms of ranking life decisions, it was probably in my top 3. … Everything you do today has an impact on your life, not just tomorrow, but 10 years from now and 20 years from now. I’ve always taken life at that — it’s not just what I do today, it’s how the decisions today, no matter how big or small, they impact you exponentially throughout the years. …

I understand the likelihood that I’ll run for mayor again is diminished considerably because of this decision. It doesn’t mean I won’t consider running for mayor again but the likelihood has diminished because of the decision.

TFP: If you had decided to run (for re-election), would you have won?

BJM: Absolutely — and for a number of reasons. It would be my third time on the ballot and name recognition on a ballot is important. You’ve got to remember, there are only 4,000 to 5,000 voters in Kinston that vote in every election and that would be the third time they’d see my name on the ballot.

Another (reason) is the incumbency. Obviously, in some political years, being the incumbent is not good but historically speaking, an incumbent has a tremendous advantage. … The third reason is because of nonpartisan elections; that was going to play to my benefit this year. …

One thing I haven’t really talked about a lot and I probably won’t go into a lot of detail but one of the biggest things people have said me as a Republican that goes against me is the support in the black community. I’ll be honest, I have a lot more support in the black community than people either realize or would like to admit.

TFP: Why is that?

BJM: Because I grew up here. I was public school-educated; I went to Northwest (Elementary), Bynum (Elementary), Rochelle (Middle) and Kinston High School, LCC and East Carolina. My entire life was public school education. I was cross country, track and field and I played football for three years. I know a lot of the black community although I’m white.

It’s like I’ve explained to a lot of folks: my father’s generation, they went through integration so you could understand how that generation might have some racial tension issues. … But the thing I’ve mentioned when I’ve talked to people about race relations is my generation doesn’t have that same problem. We just don’t. … I grew up playing sports with black friends and white friends; that’s all we knew.

I grew up in a white home, but in a working class family. My mother was a retail merchant and my father was a bread man and it was a blue collar family. We just survived and we made it happen. … I lost my birth mother when I was 4. There’s a lot of things I can identify with the black community. … I’m a Republican but I have a lot more support there than people realize. …

Hands down, I would’ve won. But it’s all speculation now.

TFP: What is your opinion on the dust-up with the Lenoir County Board of Election’s dust-up with its director, Dana King?

BJM: I think the entire board needs to change. I don’t know how soon the board changes after the governor’s race, but the fact is you have a Republican governor, so you should have two Republican board members now. …

(The current board has) had it out for her since Day 1. The Democratic Party didn’t even tell the two former members they weren’t going to be gone. They replaced them with two new people. I like them; don’t get me wrong and it’s nothing personal. … Eventually, there comes a time when it’s time to step down.

TFP: What is your advice for the next mayor of Kinston?

BJM: Continue to increase street resurfacing money and continue to engage people via social media. I think it’s real important and I think it’s going to become the norm in politics.

TFP: What is your future, politically?

BJM: It’s not the last election I’ll ever be involved in. I’m very confident I will run for another office one day. I live in three districts on the state and national level that would be favorable towards a candidacy like mine.

I have a good political base. Obviously, I’ve shown I can govern a community that is a majority minority town, a majority Democratic town and do it with class and getting things accomplished. I think there’s a good track record of working, quote-unquote, across the aisle, although I’ve always argued there’s not that partisanship on the local level or hyper-local level, at least.

No, I’m not done with politics. And no, I’m not announcing for any candidacy and no, I haven’t even considered a run for an office next year when those guys run in 2014. I really haven’t given it a thought.

My thought has always been, up until this decision, “How can I set myself up for a future race?” The best way thing I knew to do now was focus as much time and energy on my business. …

My political story is always going to precede me. I just need to become more successful in business now and add that chapter to my life and then see where we go in the future.

Full Interview

Want to hear more from this Q&A with Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy? Go to Kinston.com and click on The Free Press Radio Show for the complete interview.