Kim Westbrook Strach was fired Monday as executive director of the Bipartisan State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement.
So why did Strach get shown the door? It’s because she is a Republican and the Board of Elections is majority Democrat. It’s legal. It’s happened before. And it’s wrong.
The firing happened at a meeting Monday that told NC voters all the wrong things about the people in charge of their elections. It told them that party matters, not fairness. It told them that politics rule, not effectiveness. Strach, who has led the Board since 2013, was replaced by Democrat Karen Brinson Bell in a 3-2 vote that split along party lines. Why? Board chair Robert Cordle explained unconvincingly that Brinson Bell’s background fit the board’s need to focus on training local election officials for the 2020 election, something that surely brought a smirk to the many veteran local election directors across the state.
A more persuasive argument might have been that Strach’s dismissal is a part of the ordinary transfer of power, that the spoils of winning (in this case, the governor’s race) includes having some say over who runs things. Republicans exercise that power, too, including when Strach got her job in 2013 after Gov. Pat McCrory defeated Democratic incumbent Bev Perdue.
Instead, Democrats on Monday launched an ugly attempt at character assassination, with N.C. Democratic Party chair Wayne Goodwin accusing Strach of protecting Republicans both as an investigator and chair. The reality is that Strach and the board under her have vigorously pursued both Democrats and Republicans, most recently when she resisted Republican calls to leave Mark Harris alone in the 9th District. Even Cordle, the Democratic board chair, said Monday that Strach had done an excellent job for the state.
If there ever was a moment not to replace an elections director because of party, it was now. The Democrats did so anyway Monday, and they justified it in the worst possible way. It was unseemly and hypocritical. It was politics.