Taylor challenges incumbent despite candidacy concerns

Despite accusations that residency requirements invalidate his candidacy, newcomer Roy Taylor plans to challenge a longtime incumbent in the Durham County sheriff election Tuesday.

Taylor, a Republican, will challenge Sheriff Worth Hill, a Democrat who has held the position since 1994 in four consecutive terms. But Taylor could potentially be disqualified in the race due to a residency requirement—North Carolina General Statute 162-2 requires that candidates for sheriff live in the county in question at least one year prior to the election. Last year Taylor lived in Wake County for approximately five months, ending in December, while looking for a new home in Durham after he and his wife divorced.

Former Durham County Sheriff Roland Leary filed a challenge to Taylor’s eligibility Oct. 5 with the Durham County Board of Elections. Taylor then publicly considered withdrawing from the race, but after speaking with legal counsel believes the North Carolina Constitution invalidates that statute.

In an interview with The Chronicle Sunday, Taylor said Article VI of the N.C. Constitution, “Suffrage and the Eligibility to Office,” justifies his right to be a candidate. The document states that all qualified voters at least 21 years of age are eligible for election by the people to office unless they are otherwise disqualified by the Constitution. Taylor is an eligible voter because he has lived in Durham County for more than 30 days and is not otherwise disqualified by the Constitution.

If Taylor wins the election, the Durham County Board of Elections will determine his eligibility for the position in a hearing scheduled for Nov. 11, said Mike Ashe, director of the Board of Elections. Should Taylor be formally disqualified, the county commissioners will appoint the new sheriff.

Hill could not be reached for comment last week.

Although Tiffany Blakeney, a research associate at a private practice in Durham, is a registered Republican, she considers herself an agenda-based voter and has chosen to support Taylor for sheriff. She said she believes that first and foremost he will uphold family values as sheriff of Durham County.

Taylor, currently police chief of private law enforcement contractor Capitol Special Police, promises to reduce corruption if elected. He said issues under Hill’s administration are evidence of a need for a change in leadership and cited two specific incidents.

In 2006, former deputy Michael Owens was charged with trafficking drugs through a Durham nightclub that he owned. More recently, former lieutenant Derek O’Mary was indicted last month for embezzling almost $100,000 in funds intended for police sting operations as well as using cocaine seized in a drug raid.

“I see people tarnishing the badge,” Taylor said in reference to the two incidents. “[Hill] is not in control of the department.”

Taylor also proposes a major push for community outreach, calling the current department’s approach “very closed-door.”

“We could be using listservs to create a two-way interaction to keep people informed of specific crime trends or activity,” he said. “It would be much more proactive.”

Taylor claims Hill uses insufficient funds as an excuse for not implementing changes.

“We don’t have the money is his answer to everything,” Taylor said. “These measures that I’m proposing could be done with the money available.”


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