Granville County GOP files challenge of candidate’s eligibility in sheriff’s race

The Granville County Law Enforcement Center in Oxford is featured in this file photo.

RALEIGH — The Granville County Republican Party has filed a formal challenge with the Granville County Board of Elections contesting candidacy of Christopher Wayne Smoot, one of three candidates for Granville County Sheriff.  

Filings allege that Smoot did not legally obtain the 4% of Granville County voters as of January 1, 2022, and that there may be reason to believe that Smoot either requested or demanded that his deputies collect petition signatures on his behalf while in uniform, in violation of state law.  

Smoot currently holds the position of Chief Deputy Sheriff of Granville County and was interim Sheriff for nearly two months the year prior.  

Per the request in the challenge filing, the Granville Board of Elections has issued subpoenas for the communications of 65 Granville County Sheriff deputies, officers, and administrative staff. Additionally, subpoenas were also issued for 29 individuals to appear at the upcoming scheduled hearing as well as for video footage of the outside of the Granville County courthouse. 

The challenge was filed on June 1 by Granville GOP Chairman Chad McHenry and Vice Chairman Michael Magnanti. Representing McHenry and Magnanti is Boyd Sturges of the law firm Davis, Sturges and Tomlinson and Philip Thomas. Thomas also serves as the Chief Counsel of the North Carolina Republican Party.  

According to a press release “We are challenging Chief Deputy Smoot’s candidacy for Sheriff on the grounds that his petition to be an unaffiliated candidate was tainted with irregularities and potential illegalities. If discovery uncovers that petition signatures were illegally obtained, his notice of candidacy should be canceled.” 

On June 15, 2022, the Granville County Board of Elections held an emergency meeting at which time it was decided the challengers met legal standard to move forward and a hearing date was set for June 24 at 10 a.m. at the Granville County Courthouse. 

The following day, Smoot posted about the hearing on his Facebook page and thanked his supporters. 

I would like to thank everyone who showed up yesterday evening to support myself and The Sheriffs Office. I would also like to thank everyone who has offered their encouragement during this process,” Smoot wrote. “Your words of support mean more to my family, my team and myself then I could possibly put into words. We ask at this point that you continue to keep us covered in prayers as we seek truth and justice in this matter.” 

If the GOP’s challenge is found to have merit, Smoot would be out and the remaining two candidates Republican Vance Johnson and Democrat Robert Fountain Jr., would remain on the ballot this fall. 

John Blackwell Hardy III is currently serving as Granville’s sheriff after Sheriff Brindell Wilkins was indicted involving an accusation he falsified training records. The indictment came when Wilkins had already been suspended on charges of obstruction and was apparently suspended in the past over an allegation he urged an individual to kill one of his own deputies. 

About A.P. Dillon 679 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_