Raleigh, N.C. — U.S. District Judge James Dever has denied Wake County Commissioner Caroline Sullivan's efforts to re-enter a campaign wracked by an unusual combination of new laws and court rulings.
"Given how far the underlying lawsuit has progressed, the nature of the expedited remedial proceedings and the ongoing electoral process and its incessant sequential deadlines, the first factor weighs heavily against finding Sullivan's motion to intervene to be timely," Dever wrote in an order issued Thursday.
He added, "The court finds that Sullivan's reasons for her tardy intervention motion do not warrant permitting Sullivan to intervene."
Sullivan had asked Dever to reopen filing or find other ways to allow her to participate in this fall's election for Wake County commissioner.
In 2015, state lawmakers reworked Wake County's Board of Commissioners districts to include both smaller local districts as well as two regional districts, one ringing the county and the other centered on Raleigh. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down those regional districts as unconstitutional. The court also voided the same regional districts for the Wake County Board of Education.
For this year's election, Dever ordered that elections go forward in three commissioner districts and that the results of March primaries for the two regional districts simply be wiped away. That order took Sullivan and any other candidates for the regional districts off the ballot but did not give her a path to try and keep her seat.
Dever ruled that voters would be severely prejudiced if he were to reopen filing because that would almost certainly delay the election for this year's county commissioner seats.
"Of course we're disappointed in the result," said Shannon Joseph, a lawyer for Sullivan. "Caroline has been committed to serving the citizens in this county, particularly in taking the lead on issues like helping the working poor and mental health."
Sullivan, she said, would continue to look for ways to serve regardless of whether she was in office or not.
"As far as what next steps might be taken legally, we're still examining that," Joseph said.