DOBSON — Surry County GOP chair Mark D. Jones said he’s ready to get back to the business of running his party after a challenge to his residency was dismissed.
On Monday the Surry County Board of Elections unanimously dismissed a challenge alleging Jones did not live in Surry County or in North Carolina.
Diana Gwyn, the Mount Airy resident who filed the challenge against Jones, claimed he did not live at 389 Beechnut Lane, the address at which he is registered to vote.
The address is associated with the Beechnut Family Campground, where Jones parks a camper he owns.
Gwyn, however, claimed Jones didn’t live in it and instead resides on property owned by his parents in Virginia.
Jones said he was transitioning from his former home in Craven County and the camper is a temporary accommodation as he attempts to sell the 70 acres of property he still owns in Craven County.
At the hearing, Jones produced a signed lease for the site at the campground, bank statements showing he banks in Surry County and a veterinary bill for services rendered in Surry County. His vehicles are also registered in Surry County, and he pays Surry County property taxes on the vehicles.
The hearing lasted about eight hours, with both sides of the issue presenting their cases.
“I respect the board’s decision, but I personally believe they reached the wrong conclusion,” said Gwyn, on Wednesday. “I think it’s a sad day for Surry County.”
Jones said he is happy he had the chance to tell his side of the story and pleased to have this part of his tenure as party chair behind him.
“The vast majority of the evidence clearly indicated I live in Surry County,” remarked Jones on the day following the proceedings.
The party chair noted he has his sights on the future.
“There are a lot of good people who want to work to make our Surry County Republican Party a good, strong, conservative party,” explained Jones. “I look forward to working with them.”
Brian LiVecchi, who represented Jones at Monday’s hearing, said there could be and likely will be consequences for filing the challenge to Jones’ residency. He stopped short of identifying what those consequences will be at the hearing, however.
On Tuesday, LiVecchi said only, “I certainly think the board (of elections) applied and followed the law,” during its deliberations and the hearing on Monday.
That stated, there is at least one defamation of character case in North Carolina which resulted from voter challenges during the 2016 election cycle, and in a prior interview, Jones indicated he might consider a defamation suit against the challenger.
In February, four Guilford County residents — backed by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice — accused of not being legally eligible to vote filed suit against William Clark Porter IV, the Guilford GOP chair who filed protests questioning their rights to vote after the 2016 general election.
Like the Jones challenge, those challenges were dismissed by the board of elections. However, the four residents claim the protests contained inaccurate or defamatory statements.
“Defendant’s false accusations against Plaintiffs subjected them to adverse publicity both locally, statewide, and even nationally, as various media reported the allegations and then elaborated on them,” reads the complaint. “This embarrassment and harm to their reputations was compounded by the fact that a public hearing was noticed and held to consider Defendant’s accusations, which was further reported in the media.”
According to an official at the Guilford County Clerk of Court office, that case is still pending.
While LiVecchi made mention of consequences for Gwyn, she indicated the shooting match regarding Jones’ residency may not be over.
By statute, Gwyn is entitled to appeal the board’s decision to the Superior Court of Surry County. She has ten days from the date of the dismissal to file that appeal.
“I am still considering an appeal,” noted Gwyn.