Tallahassee mayor and former Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is joining former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in opposing one of President Donald Trump’s judicial picks who Democrats are hoping to defeat claiming he is hostile to voting rights.
Judge Thomas Farr was nominated by Trump to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
In a joint statement released Tuesday morning, Gillum and Abrams denounced Farr’s nomination to the federal court.
“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 said. “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.”
Farr’s nomination could be defeated if Democrats can convince one more Republican Senator to vote against the nominee. Farr can lose only one additional vote after Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) reiterated Monday that he would vote against Farr’s nomination if Republican leadership did not bring to a vote legislation to protect special counsel Robert Mueller. Flake, who is retiring, had previously supported Farr earlier this year during the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote.
All 49 Democratic U.S. Senators are opposed to the nomination and are hopeful that Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) or Susan Collins (R-Maine) might also be convinced to oppose Farr.
Farr has been criticized by Democrats for his defense of a North Carolina voter ID law that an appeals court struck down for targeting African-American voters. He has also been singled out for serving as lawyer for former Republican Sen. Jesse Helms’ reelection campaign in 1990. Helms opposed the Civil Rights Act as a senator.
“Thomas Farr’s record of hostility and disregard for fundamental civil rights disqualifies him for a lifetime appointment that will allow him to codify his discriminatory ideology into law,” Gillum and Abrams went on to say in their joint session. “North Carolina’s Eastern District — where most of the state’s African Americans live — should be represented by a Bench that respects its diversity, not one that actively works to disenfranchise them.
“We call on all U.S. Senators who revere our democracy — who put that democracy above party loyalty — to reject this nomination and deny Thomas Farr the platform to continue his crusade against voting rights,” they concluded.
Gillum and Abrams made voter suppression an issue in this year’s election. That was especially true for Abrams who was critical of her opponent Brian Kemp, who as Georgia’s secretary of state was responsible for conducting this year’s election in that state.
An investigative report by the Associated Press in October found that Kemp’s office had more than 50,000 voter registration applicants still pending. The review of those applications showed most of them were from black voters. Abrams, along with civil rights groups, alleged that Kemp was engaging in discriminatory practices.
Kemp denied trying to suppress voters in the Georgia election, saying he was just following the law.
While Republican leaders in the Senate are hopeful they will have the votes to secure Farr’s nomination later this week, some GOP lawmakers admit they are taking a closer look at the nominee, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who told reporters on Monday that “as of now, I have no reason to vote no” on Farr’s nomination. But he admitted he was “going to go back and read more carefully into his records and see what the concerns are.”
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said Farr had been “unfairly treated” and accused Democrats of trying to make his nomination an issue to gain media attention.