Gillum, Abrams Denounce NC Judicial Nominee

ATLANTA (CN) — After narrowly losing their respective governor’s races in Florida and Georgia in the midterm election, Democrats Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams released a joint statement Tuesday saying they oppose President Donald Trump’s nominee for a North Carolina federal judgeship based on his record on voting rights.

In this Nov. 6, 2018 file photo, Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams addresses supporters during an election night watch party in Atlanta. After losing governor’s races in Georgia and Florida, Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum are joining together to oppose one of President Donald Trump’s picks for a lifetime federal judgeship. The Democrats say Thomas Farr’s nomination to a North Carolina district court is a threat to voting rights of nonwhites. Farr defended North Carolina laws that federal courts have found discriminatory against black voters. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Gillum and Abrams, both African-Americans, urged the U.S. Senate to reject Thomas Farr’s nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina and deny him the platform “to continue his crusade against voting rights.”

“When it comes to the trifecta of voter disenfranchisement – voter suppression, racial gerrymandering, and restriction of voting rights – Thomas Farr is, sadly, one of the most experienced election lawyers in the country. Superior courts have ruled against him in case after case, citing the surgical precision with which the policies he champions have targeted voters of color, especially African-Americans,” the former gubernatorial candidates said in the joint statement.

Gillum and Abrams argued that the citizens of North Carolina’s Eastern District, where the population is 27 percent black, “should be represented by a bench that respects its diversity, not one that actively works to disenfranchise them.”

“Thomas Farr’s record of hostility and disregard for fundamental civil rights disqualifies him for a lifetime appointment that will allow him to codify his discriminatory ideology into law,” the statement says.

Farr’s status as a controversial figure dates back to the 1990s, when he served as counsel for then-U.S. Senator Jesse Helms’ campaign while the Justice Department investigated it for allegedly intimidating black voters by mailing out postcards suggesting they were ineligible to vote and would be prosecuted for voter fraud if they attempted to cast a ballot.

Republicans in charge of the North Carolina General Assembly then hired Farr to defend congressional legislative boundaries approved by state lawmakers in 2011. The boundaries were struck down by a federal court in 2016, which found that the voting map was racially gerrymandered.

In this Nov. 10, 2018 file photo, Andrew Gillum, the Democrat candidate for governor speaks at a news conference in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

Farr also helped defend a 2013 voter ID law that required North Carolina voters to show identification before they could cast a ballot, eliminated same-day voter registration, ended out-of-precinct voting, and cut the early-voting period by seven days.

A federal court struck that law down in 2016, ruling that its primary purpose was to disenfranchise minority voters “with almost surgical precision.”

Farr’s nomination has the support of both of North Carolina’s Republican senators.

With Tuesday’s statement, Abrams and Gillum joined a chorus of Democrats warning that Farr would use his position on the bench to rule against voters of color.

Complaints of voter suppression against minorities ran rampant in both Florida and Georgia during the midterm election, spurring Abrams and Gillum to make voting rights a centerpiece of their campaigns.

In Georgia, Abrams ran a tight race against Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp in her bid to become the first black female governor in U.S. history. Abrams conceded 10 days after Election Day while insisting that Kemp’s alleged voter suppression efforts as secretary of state left thousands of votes uncounted that could have forced a runoff election.

During the election, nearly a dozen federal lawsuits were filed against Kemp by various voting rights groups claiming that he unfairly removed millions of voters from registration rolls, froze thousands of registrations for people of color ahead of the election, and improperly rejected absentee and provisional ballots under Georgia’s controversial “exact match” voter rules.

In both Georgia and Florida, federal judges ruled that election officials do not give voters adequate time to raise objections when their absentee or provisional ballot is rejected for signature-matching issues.

After conceding their races, both Abrams and Gillum vowed to defend voting rights.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., criticized Farr’s nomination during a floor speech Monday, calling him the “chief cook and bottle washer” of North Carolina’s discriminatory voting laws.

Schumer said he had spoken to Gillum and Abrams about Farr’s nomination and that they “were hurt by attempts to limit voting rights.”

The Senate could vote on Farr’s nomination as early as this week.

All 49 Senate Democrats will reportedly oppose the nomination. They are joined by one Republican senator: Jeff Flake of Arizona, who will step down in January, has threatened to block all judicial nominees until a vote on legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller is held.

If confirmed, Farr would fill a seat left vacant after Senate Republicans refused to grant hearings to two black women nominated by former President Barack Obama.

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