North Carolina BOE chair steps down amid controversy over crude joke

A top Democrat in North Carolina sparked outrage at a statewide conference on Monday when he told a dirty joke that ended up forcing him to submit his letter of resignation.

State Board of Elections (BOE) chairman Robert Cordle resigned “effective immediately” on Tuesday after telling a joke “that ended by comparing a cow who refused to be impregnated to a woman,” according to a report from Raleigh-based news outlet WRAL.

Backlash at the BOE

According to WRAL, Cordle told the joke as part of his opening remarks at a statewide conference for several hundred state elections officials from across the state of North Carolina.

Cordle initially didn’t think he had said or done anything wrong — indeed, he said Tuesday that he believed the joke had received a “big laugh” — but in reality, the joke didn’t go over as well as Cordle thought.

Many issued complaints about Cordle’s remark, which was described by Wake County BOE member Gerry Cohen as “an extremely lengthy dirty joke” that was also “misogynistic and wildly inappropriate for a high-ranking state official to tell” at a statewide conference for more than 600 election officials. Some also alleged that this isn’t the first time Cordle has made an inappropriate comment.

Cordle issued an apology in his resignation letter, writing: “I sincerely apologize to those who heard my joke at the elections conference on Monday and all those affected by my words.”

Turnover turmoil

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) accepted Cordle’s resignation on Tuesday.

“The resignation has been accepted and we thank Chairman Cordle for his service,” Cooper said in a brief statement. “The State Board of Elections needs to continue its important work without distraction to ensure the integrity of our electoral process.”

Now begins a scramble by the governor’s office to name a replacement for Cordle as chair of the important board, a position that has already changed hands three times in the aftermath of the 2018 elections, which featured numerous allegations of fraud in the state’s Ninth Congressional District that ultimately forced the vote to be rescheduled.

In the wake of that scandal, Cooper had nominated Andy Penry to chair the board, but he resigned on Dec. 1 after it was revealed that he’d published obnoxious and harsh criticisms of Trump on social media. (Board members are required to refrain from overtly partisan activity while serving.)

Penry’s replacement, Joshua Malcolm, ultimately turned down the nomination due to a lawsuit. Cordle was subsequently nominated in January.

According to WRAL, a spokesperson for Cooper’s office said the governor will name a replacement for Cordle “as soon as is practical.”

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