The new Republican-controlled State Board of Elections Wednesday chose Kim Strach, a veteran campaign investigator, to be the elections board director.
The board chose Strach to replace Gary Bartlett who has been elections director for the past 20 years.
The vote was 3-2 along party-lines, with the Democrats saying they had not had time to examine Strach's credentials and thought there should be a longer transition for Bartlett. Bartlett was appointed by Democrats.
On Friday, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory named all new members to the elections board. The previous board’s terms were up on April 30, and the new board’s Republican majority reflects the party in power in the governor’s office as is typical.
Strach had worked for the state elections campaign staff the past 13 years. She was heavily involved in the investigations of such political figures as former House Speaker Jim Black, former Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps, former state Reps. Thomas Wright and Michael Decker and former Govs. Mike Easley and Bev Perdue. All but Decker are Democrats.
Josh Howard, a Raleigh attorney who was chosen to be the new elections board chairman, called Strach experienced and “tough as nails.”
“Kim has spent many years investigating the powerful,” Howard said. “That is not easy to do.”
Howard said some of Strach’s toughness may have come from her time as a probation and parole officer in Kinston. She worked there before becoming an elections official.
He noted that she had won support across the ideological spectrum, winning an award from Common Cause for her work. He said that Strach is registered unaffiliated, although in the past Democrats have complained that she was married to the general counsel to the state Republican Party.
Her appointment was praised by Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina, a Durham watch dog group, who said she was an experienced investigator.
“I think she is a good choice,” Hall said. “I respect her work.”
Howard said that Bartlett had done “important and effective work for the past 20 years. But even when a sports team gets a new general manager they get a new head coach.” Bartlett’s term ends May 15 and Howard asked him to stay until then.