Thomas Alvin Farr was first picked for a federal judgeship in North Carolina in 2006, but his nomination languished after Democrats took control of the Senate, thwarting him and a host of other President George W. Bush appointees.
Republicans retaliated, blocking President Obama from filling the seat with one of his own picks during his eight years in office.
Now President Trump has re-nominated Mr. Farr — and he waits again, nearly 500 days after his July 2017 nomination, the longest delay of the new administration.
He was cleared through the Judiciary Committee in January, but since then has languished on the Senate floor, where Republicans fear — and liberal activists hope — he wouldn’t be able to win majority support.
“I think Thomas Farr is one of those nominees who should give Republicans in the Senate pause,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president for People for the American Way. “They tried to put Farr in before; he was just as toxic.”
Mr. Farr is currently a shareholder at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart P.C., in Raleigh, which focuses on labor and employment law.
But it’s his past work, first as campaign lawyer for the late Sen. Jesse Helms and then as a lawyer representing North Carolina in major voting-rights cases, that has put him on Democrats’ bad side.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the state’s 2013 voter ID law, which Mr. Farr had defended, saying the state legislature targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.”
And in 2010, Mr. Farr reportedly counseled members in the state assembly about racial gerrymandering.
Going back 28 years, the Helms campaign mailed out more than 100,000 postcards to black voters in 1990, warning them not to show up to the polls. The mailer told them they were ineligible to vote and would be imprisoned if they tried to do so. Mr. Farr represented the Helms campaign when it was sued by the Justice Department; the case was settled in 1992.
Liberal activists also say the seat Mr. Farr has been nominated for should have gone to a black judge.
Mr. Obama nominated two black women to the seat, but they were never confirmed because the Republican home-state senators refused to support them.
“They have never had an African-American — ever, ever — had an African-American represent an area that has a significant black population,” said Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat who alleges that Republican senators halted Mr. Obama’s nominee for racial reasons.
Curt Levey, president of the conservative Committee for Justice, said Mr. Farr’s nomination is ensnared in a long-running battle over voter access, a priority for Democrats, and combatting voter fraud, which is a key goal of the GOP.
“He’s a southern white male. There is a real pattern of the Democrats accusing southern white males of being racist,” Mr. Levey said.
Sen. Thom Tillis, North Carolina Republican, stands by his home-state nominee, saying he even had a prosecutor evaluate the accusations against Mr. Farr to put some of his fellow GOP senators at ease.
“He came back and said, ‘I’m completely convinced that the inference you would draw from comments from other people on the other side of the aisle are false. They are not supported by the facts and I believe you have somebody who is well qualified to be a district judge,’” Mr. Tillis said.
And Daniel Keylin, a spokesperson for Mr. Tillis, told The Washington Times Mr. Farr has been rated “well qualified” by the American Bar Association.
“While it’s unfortunate that some Senate Democrats — who have turned the politics of personal destruction into an art form — have lobbed false and personal attacks against Tom Farr to pander to their left-wing base and advance their own political ambitions, we look forward to a floor vote,” Mr. Keylin said.
The White House says it’s not giving up.
“We still fully support his nomination and anticipate and hope he’ll be confirmed by the end of the year,” Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, told The Times.