GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – We might learn on Sunday whether the No Labels movement – calling it a “party” may not be appropriate – can have a presidential candidate on the ballot in North Carolina next year.
The North Carolina Board of Elections has consideration of the movement’s petition to be on the ballot on its agenda for a meeting in Concord, and the movement’s organizers are insisting that they have since March fulfilled requirements to be certified and are demanding a final decision.
No Labels is positioning itself to field an alternative candidate for voters not thrilled about a potential rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. Former NC Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, is one of the people supporting that effort.
But leaders of the movement in North Carolina – including McCrory – have argued that state elections officials have been pushing back against that effort and not following state law to certify the group’s status.
That issue continued late into Friday, when No Labels attorney Robert Orr, the former North Carolina Supreme Court justice, filed his latest response to letters from the NCBE to reinforce that No Labels had met the every request and that “the State Board’s recent Supplemental Request for Information has resulted in my client’s rapidly diminishing confidence in the Board’s objectivity in the certification process and commitment to compliance with the established legal
process for certifying petitions under [statute].”
McCrory’s role is to help No Labels get a position on the ballot in all 50 states, but he has said “political power” is stymieing that process in violation of the state’s constitution. In a meeting in July, the NC Board of Elections delayed its certification of No Labels’ petition but acknowledged that No Labels has gathered 14,797 verified signatures. The board has promised to make a final decision about ballot status on Sunday.
In a letter sent Aug. 3 to Paul Cox, general counsel to the NCBE, Orr, who also is active as a voting rights advocate, submitted affidavits that reinforce that No Labels officials feel that they have complied with all known regulations and see no impediment to a decision.
“No Labels is unaware of any other group of North Carolina voters submitting petitions for certification of a new political party in the state, ever having been faced with the hurdles and requirements now being placed on No Labels,” Orr’s letter states.
“Nonetheless, No Labels in the interest of full cooperation has gone above and beyond what was initially determined to be necessary for certification, and to assist the Board in complying with its statutory duty. Under the circumstances, No Labels contends that it has fully and completely met its burden in this matter and respectfully requests that the State Board certify No Labels as a political party in North Carolina pursuant to the laws of the State.”
Cox responded on Aug. 7 with a letter that included details of an interview with NBC in which No Labels CEO Nancy Jacobson discussed the movement’s status as a “party” and whether it actually would run a presidential candidate. Cox wanted to know if signers of No Labels’ petitions were aware of this and to explain whether the non-profit movement was a party or not.
He also addressed a date issue about one of the affidavits and requested a response in writing by today or in person on Sunday.
“I expect them to certify No Labels on Sunday having provided the board with everything and more that they needed,” Orr wrote to WGHP, adding that he was “retained as an attorney to represent them but am not involved from a political perspective at least at this point.”
Orr’s letter to Cox late Friday, meeting the deadline Cox had required for a written response. noted that Jacobson in the excerpts cited by Cox “explained that legally and colloquially, No Labels, Inc. is not replicating the structure of the national party committees. Indeed, No Labels, Inc. will not spend funds to support the Unity Presidential Ticket after it is nominated, does not intend to facilitate the nomination of any candidates for office other than President and
Vice President, and does not at this point intend to facilitate the nomination of candidates for office after 2024.”
McCrory, speaking in mid-July, on the same day as Jacobson’s TV interview, said the board “already waited three months. They’ve had the certified names, so they’ve waited three months. Last time they deferred their decision. And they’re forcing us to pay a lot of money on lawyers and other things, which is not the right thing to do, and they ought to be ashamed of themselves.”
McCrory has said that Biden and Trump are “two candidates that most people don’t want,” which he has said is supported by 63% who have responded to polls. He also notes that about 36% of nearly 7.3 million registered voters in North Carolina are unaffiliated. About a third are Democrats and about 10% fewer are Republicans, with some Libertarians sprinkled in. In 2020 about 75.35% of them cast ballots.
No Labels’ founding chair is former Democratic vice-presidential candidate and independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, and vice chairs are North Carolina civil rights activist Benjamin Chavis, former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and businessman John Hope.
The group’s plan is that after Super Tuesday on March 5, when North Carolina and 15 other states are scheduled to hold primaries, if Biden and Trump appeared to be headed for nomination, No Labels would have a nominating convention in April and put forth a slate for November.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who on Wednesday said he was considering a change to independent, has been mentioned as a potential candidate. Manchin and former Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-Utah) appeared at one of No Labels’ two town-hall gatherings in New Hampshire in July.
“Having filed these petitions on March 30, 2023, we respectfully submit that the time for making a final decision is well past due,” Orr’s letter says. “The governing statute requires the State Board to ‘forthwith’ verify the documentation filed and over 4 months and 4 Board meetings later, that statutory requirement has not been met by the Board. We, again respectfully request that the State Board certify No Labels as a political party in North Carolina at the August 13, 2023, meeting.”