The Phoenix Flyer

Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams release statement opposing North Carolina federal judicial nominee

By: - November 27, 2018 1:00 pm
Attorney Thomas Farr (Photo courtesy of NC Policy Watch)

Attorney Thomas Farr (Photo courtesy of NC Policy Watch)

In the aftermath of his narrow defeat to Republican Ron DeSantis in the race for governor, Democrat Andrew Gillum told associates that he wanted to become a national champion in the fight against voter suppression and disenfranchisement.

The former Tallahassee mayor is now joining up with Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in opposing the federal judicial nomination of attorney Thomas Farr, whose work defending North Carolina voting laws has been found by federal courts to have discriminated against African-Americans. Farr’s nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina is expected to be voted on in the U.S. Senate later this week.

“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,” Gillum and Abrams write. “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.”

Republicans in North Carolina hired Farr and other attorneys from his law firm to defend congressional and legislative boundaries that the GOP-controlled North Carolina Legislature approved in 2011. A federal court later struck down some of those newly-created districts as being racially gerrymandered and the U.S. Supreme Court later affirmed that decision, according to the Charlotte Observer.

The Observer also reports that Farr helped defend a 2013 law that required a photo ID to vote, reduced the number of early voting days and eliminated same-day registration. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck that law down in 2013, writing that the law targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.”

Gillum and Abrams were both trying to make history in the November general election by becoming the first black governors in their respective southern states. Both finished incredibly close to their Republican competitors: Gillum lost to DeSantis by less than half a percentage point, while Abrams lost to Republican Brian Kemp in the Georgia governor’s race by 1.4 percentage points.

In announcing that she would not pursue any further legal challenges to the election results in her race earlier this month, Abrams did say that she planned to file a “major federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia for the gross mismanagement of this election, and to protect further elections from unconstitutional actions.”

Gillum said in a speech in Fort Lauderdale after the election that the state’s law on matching signatures with vote-by-mail ballots was a form of disenfranchisement.

“Voter disenfranchisement doesn’t just show up when you have a man or women blocking the entrance to a polling place, or a dog, or a water hose,” he said, adding that when a canvassing board eliminates a ballot because a signature doesn’t match, “that is also voter disenfranchisement.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has been speaking out against Farr on the floor of the Senate this week, and quoted the Congressional Black Caucus in a tweet on Monday denouncing the nominee.

Democrats are hoping to flip just one Republican U.S. senator to block Farr’s nomination. Forty-nine out of 100 U.S. senators now say they oppose Farr, and Arizona Republican Jeff Flake has said he will not support any more of Trump’s judicial choices until U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allows a vote on protecting special counsel Robert Mueller.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.