When Democrat Jeff Jackson was declared the winner of a special party election to the N.C. Senate last month, he hugged his wife, Marisa, and whispered in her ear.
“Honey, I just lost my job,” he told her.
Winning the election cost Jackson his job as an assistant district attorney in Gaston County, a position he’d held for three years.
Jackson, 31, was elected by Mecklenburg County Democrats to fill the term of Dan Clodfelter, who left the Senate after his election as mayor of Charlotte following Patrick Cannon’s arrest and resignation.
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Jackson said he’d been originally told the Senate wouldn’t interfere with his day job. But four days before the party vote, a state courts official told him it could.
At issue are a statute and a part of the state constitution that deal with holding two offices. The constitution, for example, says, “No person who holds any office or place of trust or profit under the United States or ... under any other state or government, shall be eligible to hold any office in this State that is filled by election by the people.”
“I made it clear that it was an issue for him to finally decide, and that we were providing an opinion only,” says John Smith, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. “We tried to find some exception since we valued his service but the language of the constitution, the statute, and the appearance of the matter all pointed to the same conclusion.”
“I knew that it was a risk,” Jackson says. “But ... I had decided that even if it was going to cost me my job, it was still worth it.”
As a senator, Jackson makes $13,951 a year. A captain in the Army National Guard, he also gets Guard pay.
Now he’s looking for someone willing to hire somebody who has a demanding, if part-time job in the General Assembly as well as annual two-week Guard duty.
Still, he saw his income drop almost 75 percent. That’s one reason he told his wife with the applause from fellow Democrats still in the air after his election.
“I figured that was the safest time to tell her,” he says.