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North Carolina Supreme Court elections, 2014

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Election highlights

  • 4 supreme court seats are up for re-election in 2014.
  • Chief Justice Parker will be hanging up her robe since she reaches mandatory retirement age in 2014.
  • Associate Justice Mark Martin will run for a full term as chief justice, following his appointment to that position in August 2014.
  • In 2012, the most expensive race in the nation was for a seat on this court, so many eyes are on the 2014 races.
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Partisan stakes

North Carolina's judicial elections are technically non-partisan. However, it is a state where the justices' political affiliations are clearly known and political parties may publicly endorse candidates. Currently, the Supreme Court of North Carolina has five Republicans and two Democrats on its bench. In 2014, four seats are up for election, meaning that a majority of the seven-member court is up for grabs.

Three Democratic seats and one Republican seat were initially up for election this year. Two of those seats--the chief justice position and Justice Martin's open seat--were given new, Republican incumbents thanks to appointments by Governor Pat McCrory in August 2014. That resulted in the chief justice position changing from a Democratic incumbent (Sarah Parker, who retired) to a Republican incumbent (Mark Martin, who is running for a full term in 2014). Going into the November elections, two seats are occupied by Republicans and two by Democrats.

A partisan flip is not possible, even though a majority of the court's seats are up for election, because it would require Democrats to win all four seats and there are no Democrats in the race for chief justice.

Republicans, on the other hand, have a chance to monopolize the court if they can oust Justices Cheri Beasley and Robin Hudson. North Carolina is already a Republican-dominated state, where the GOP holds the governorship, a majority in both legislative houses and a majority on the supreme court. This is referred to as a Trifecta Plus by Ballotpedia. A court fully controlled by the Republicans would be favorable to the similarly controlled executive and legislative branches if any of their new laws are challenged in court. More information on state government trifectas is available here: Ballotpedia: State government trifectas.

Blue represents the Democratic party, red represents the Republican party and gray represents another, minor party.

Seats up for election

Chief Justice seat
Candidate Vote %
Mark Martin Button-Red.svg
Ola M. Lewis Button-Red.svg
Current justice Sarah Parker


Martin seat
Candidate Vote %
Robert N. Hunter, Jr. Button-Red.svg
Sam Ervin Button-Blue.svg
Current justice Mark Martin (Robert Hunter temporarily appointed)


Beasley seat
Candidate Vote %
Cheri Beasley Button-Blue.svg
Michael L. Robinson Button-Red.svg
Current justice Cheri Beasley

Seats not up for election

Justices:

On the ballot: Chief Justice (Parker) seat

2014 candidates for the North Carolina Supreme Court
Chief Justice
Mark Martin 
MMartinNC.jpg
Incumbent: Yes
Party: Republican
Primary vote: n/a
Election vote:
Ola M. Lewis 
Ola-M-Lewis.jpg
Incumbent: No
Party: Republican
Primary vote: n/a
Election vote:

Chief Justice Sarah Parker's retirement initially left the chief justice seat on the court vacant. North Carolina is one of just seven states where the chief justice is chosen by voters.[1]


Going into the race for chief justice, Mark Martin, a Republican, already had the advantage of being a sitting justice of the supreme court. In August, he was appointed by Governor Pat McCrory to temporarily fill the chief justice role until the election. This gives him the advantage of incumbency going into the November election.[2]


Martin's opponent, Judge Ola M. Lewis, responded to his appointment, saying:

This is nothing more than pure politics in an effort to give my opponent an advantage—the upper hand—in the race.[3][4]
However, she still showed confidence in her chances, stating:
People are offended when the choice is made for them. I believe people want to exercise their right to vote. Mark Martin will have the distinct honor of being the shortest-serving chief justice in the state of North Carolina.[3][4]


Martin won election to the court in 1998 and was re-elected in 2006. He was endorsed by the North Carolina Republican Party, but also boasts endorsements by all five of the living chief justices of the state's supreme court--three of whom are Democrats.[5][6]


The challenger in this race is Judge Ola M. Lewis.[7] She currently serves as a senior resident superior court judge for the 13th Judicial District in Brunswick County.[8] Lewis has been a Republican since 2003, though she was formerly registered with the Democratic party.[5]


Former Chief Justice Parker reached the mandatory retirement age of 72, so she was not eligible to run for re-election. She served on the state's high court since 1992 and became its chief justice in 2006. She is a registered Democrat and has been supported in the past by the Democratic party.[9]

On the ballot: Martin seat

2014 candidates for the North Carolina Supreme Court
Martin Seat
Sam Ervin 
Ervin.jpg
Incumbent: No
Party: Democratic
Primary vote: n/a
Election vote:
Robert N. Hunter, Jr. 
Nhunter.jpg
Incumbent: Yes
Party: Republican
Primary vote: n/a
Election vote:

Mark Martin's term ends this year. He was appointed to the chief justice seat vacated by Parker, and will be running for election to a full term in that role, as explained above. His seat as an associate justice is available.

Sam Ervin, plans to be back on the supreme court ballot this year, running for Martin's seat. Ervin, a Democrat, was unsuccessful in his bid for Justice Paul Martin Newby's seat in 2012. The race was deemed to have the second-highest rate of spending by outside groups nationally.

Ervin's colleague on the bench, Republican Robert N. Hunter, Jr., will also run for Martin's seat.[10] Ervin and Hunter both serve on the court of appeals.[11] In August 2014, Hunter was appointed to the seat on the supreme court by Governor Pat McCrory, giving him the advantage of incumbency.[2]

On the ballot: Beasley seat

2014 candidates for the North Carolina Supreme Court
Beasley Seat
Cheri Beasley 
Beasley.jpg
Incumbent: Yes
Party: Democratic
Primary vote: n/a
Election vote:
Michael L. Robinson 
Mike-Robinson.jpg
Incumbent: No
Party: Republican
Primary vote: n/a
Election vote:

Near the end of her term as Governor, in 2012, Bev Perdue appointed Cheri Beasley to the court. Beasley, a Democrat, is now seeking re-election to a full term on the court. Ola M. Lewis originally announced plans to run for this seat but is now running for the chief justice seat.[8][11][12] Beasley will face Michael Robinson, a partner at the law firm of Robinson & Lawing, LLP, located in Winston-Salem.[13]

On the ballot: Hudson seat

2014 candidates for the North Carolina Supreme Court
Hudson Seat
Robin Hudson 
RHudsonNC.jpg
Incumbent: Yes
Party: Democratic
Primary vote: 42.5%ApprovedA
Election vote:
Eric L. Levinson 
Eric-Levinson.jpg
Incumbent: No
Party: Republican
Primary vote: 36.6%ApprovedA
Election vote:
Jeanette Kathleen Doran 
Jeanette-Kathleen-Doran.jpg
Incumbent: No
Party: Republican
Primary vote: 20.9%DefeatedD
Election vote:  

As she nears the end of her first term, incumbent Robin Hudson is seeking re-election to the court. She won election to the court for the first time in 2006.[14] She filed for re-election on February 20, 2014. Hudson, a Democrat, is the only incumbent who had to run in the primary on May 6.[7]

Republican Eric L. Levinson threw in his hat into the ring for this seat. Levinson currently serves as a judge for the 26th Judicial District in Mecklenburg County.[11]

Jeanette Doran competed for Hudson's seat, but was eliminated in the primary (see below).[15] The two candidates with the most votes will move on to compete in the general election on November 4, 2014.

An important primary

This was the only supreme court race in North Carolina that included a primary election. That election was held on May 6, 2014.

With two Republican candidates in the primary, voter turnout from that party was expected to be high. Local politics blog Lady Liberty 1885 pointed out that this could even cause Hudson to lose her seat, since only two candidates may advance from the primary.[16] Additionally, a slew of Republican candidates ran in the state's U.S. Senate election, hoping for a chance to face Democratic Senator Kay Hagan in the fall. That race was also expected to encourage more Republican participation in the primary and put Hudson at a disadvantage.[17] However, after election night, it was reported that Democrats accounted for approximately 42% of the voters, while Republicans represented only about 31%.[18] Doran was eliminated from the race.

Political composition

VOTE.png

Republican control

Governor McCrory's appointments of fellow Republicans Mark Martin and Bob Hunter to supreme court seats in August 2014 granted them the coveted advantage of incumbency. Republicans in North Carolina, in addition to the seat of the governor, also have a majority in both legislative houses, as well as on the supreme court. This is called a Trifecta Plus, and allows one party, in this case the GOP, to monopolize the law-making process. The fact that the supreme court has a Republican majority means that the governor and the legislature can be more confident that the laws they choose to pass will not be deemed unconstitutional by the court.


John Davis, a conservative political consultant, believes keeping a Republican majority on the state's supreme court is essential to maintaining the party's political power throughout the state. His motto: "Lose the court, lose the war."[19] Many outside political groups agree. Such organizations injected large amounts of money into the 2012 race between incumbent Newby, a Republican, and Ervin, a Democrat, to keep Newby on the court. Those efforts were successful.

Race-by-race

Looking at the match-ups for each race can give us some insight into what to expect:

  • Going into the race for chief justice, Mark Martin, a Republican, already had the advantage of being a sitting justice of the supreme court. In August, he was appointed by Governor Pat McCrory to the very seat for which he is running--that of chief justice. The seat was vacated by Chief Justice Sarah Parker, who is considered a Democrat. The other candidate, Ola M. Lewis is a senior resident superior court judge in the 13th District.
  • In the race to replace Justice Martin are two colleagues from the North Carolina Court of Appeals. Sam Ervin, the Democratic candidate, is fresh off of a 2012 supreme court race where he was defeated by incumbent Justice Paul Martin Newby. Ervin's opponent, Bob Hunter, was appointed to the supreme court seat by the governor in August, giving him the edge of incumbency. Hunter transitioned from his post on the court of appeals to the supreme court in early September.
  • Justice Hudson, came out of a big primary with a win and maintains her incumbent advantage over general election candidate Eric L. Levinson.[20]
  • Justice Cheri Beasley, a Democrat, will hope to use her incumbent advantage to be elected to her first full term as she faces attorney Michael L. Robinson.

Dollars and sense

Emblem-money.png

Supreme court candidates generally don't have much name recognition with voters. The need to build name recognition quickly with voters, from around the entire state, often leads candidates to use television ads and mass mailings of candidate flyers to promote themselves. Unfortunately, these types of advertising have a high cost. State supreme court races have become significantly expensive, especially in North Carolina.

Over $1 million spent on TV ads

About a month before the November 4 election, Justice at Stake reported that candidates in North Carolina's supreme court races had spent over $1 million on TV ads. The numbers were based off of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports as of October 4, 2014. According to the report, Ola M. Lewis, Cheri Beasley and Robin Hudson were the only candidates who had not purchased such ads.[21]

Changes in campaign finance laws

House Bill 589 is anticipated to boost spending on some judicial races in North Carolina. Campaign finance laws were amended by the General Assembly and scheduled to go into effect in time to impact the supreme court and court of appeals election races in 2014. Some of these changes include:

  • No more public financing for judicial candidates. Candidates who qualified used to receive $250,000 to finance their campaigns. All 8 candidates for statewide judicial offices qualified for public financing in 2012. Most of the funding came from voluntary fees.
  • The amount an individual donor may contribute to a judicial candidate increased from $1,000 to $5,000.
  • There are no limits on the amount an individual can donate to independent organizations which may use the money to promote or attack candidates.
  • Candidates no longer have to appear in an ad to say they approved it or list their top 5 donors in print ads.[22][23]

Money rolls in early for Hudson seat primary

Big spending started early in the primary race for Justice Hudson's seat, as businesses such as Reynolds American, Koch Industries and various Blue Cross Blue Shield groups helped fund Hudson's opposition. Two groups in particular have used those funds to try to unseat Hudson in the primary. The North Carolina Chamber had, as of April 30, put $225,000 into TV ads supporting Doran and Levinson. The group Justice for All NC was airing attack ads against Hudson.[24]

On April 25, Justice for All NC reported a donation of $650,000 by the Republican State Leadership Committee. Also, as of late April, they had spent $497,000 on TV ads.[25][26]

Contributions

Total contributions reported as of September 15, 2014:[27]

Chief Justice (Parker) seat:

Candidate Total contributions
Mark Martin $353,658.76[28][29]
Ola M. Lewis$132,877.02[30][31]

Martin seat:

Candidate Total contributions
Sam Ervin $348,183.19[32][33]
Robert N. Hunter, Jr.$187,317.61[34][35]

Beasley seat:

Candidate Total contributions
Cheri Beasley $152,716.62[36][37]
Michael L. Robinson$176,981.12[38][39]

Hudson seat:

Candidate Total contributions
Robin Hudson $476,422.61[40][41]
Eric Lee Levinson$325,877.76[42][43]
Jeanette Kathleen Doran$11,991.34[44]

See also

External links

References

  1. Judicial Selection in North Carolina
  2. 2.0 2.1 Associated Press, WRAL.com, "Retirements bring change to NC courts, elections," August 23, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 Port City Daily.com, "Judge Lewis responds to governor’s appointment of opponent as chief justice," August 27, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Charlotte Observer, "Candidates jockey for state’s highest courts in critical election year," January 3, 2014
  6. Martin for Chief Justice, "About Mark," accessed January 15, 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Candidate list grouped by contest, May 6, 2014 Primary," accessed March 21, 2014
  8. 8.0 8.1 News Observer, "Under the Dome Blog: Justice Beasley will run for her seat in 2014," September 18, 2013
  9. News Observer, "Under the Dome, Biography of Sarah Parker," March 26, 2007
  10. News Observer, "Judge Ervin will run again for Supreme Court," August 27, 2013
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 NC Policy Watch, "Kicking off the state Supreme Court elections," February 5, 2014
  12. WWAY Channel 3, "FIRST ON 3: Judge Ola Lewis to run for Supreme Court, appear on Fox News tonight," June 21, 2013
  13. Robinson & Lawing, LLP, "Partners, Michael Robinson," accessed March 21, 2014
  14. Greensboro News & Record, "Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson, a Page grad, announces re-election run," October 24, 2013
  15. The Progressive Pulse," "State Supreme Court race heating up," February 26, 2014
  16. Lady Liberty 1885, "The NC Supreme Court Races," April 14, 2014
  17. News & Observer, "NC Supreme Court race sees outside money and negative ads," April 29, 2014
  18. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Voter Statistics," May 6, 2014 (timed out) (Download)
  19. John Davis Consulting, "Home Page," accessed January 16, 2017
  20. Lady Liberty 1885, "The NC Supreme Court Races," April 14, 2014
  21. Justice at Stake, "Candidate Spending in North Carolina Supreme Court Election Soars Past $1 Million," October 7, 2014
  22. Huffington Post, "North Carolina Legislature Repeals Popular 'Voter Owned Elections' Program," July 26, 2013
  23. www.wral.com, "Voting changes head to governor," July 26, 2013
  24. NC Capitol, "Big business spends to unseat NC Supreme Court Justice Hudson," April 30, 2014
  25. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "48-Hour Notice, Justice for All NC disclosure report," April 25, 2014
  26. Gavel Grab, "JAS: ‘Big-Spending Circus’ Looms in N.C. Court Election," April 28, 2014
  27. NC Policy Watch, "Kicking off the state supreme court elections," February 5, 2014
  28. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Martin for Chief Justice 1st quarter disclosure report," April 29, 2014
  29. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Martin for Chief Justice 2nd quarter disclosure report," July 21, 2014
  30. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Committee to Elect Judge Ola M. Lewis Supreme Court 1st quarter disclosure report," April 28, 2014
  31. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Committee to Elect Judge Ola M. Lewis Supreme Court 2nd quarter disclosure report," July 10, 2014
  32. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Ervin for Supreme Court 1st quarter disclosure report," April 29, 2014
  33. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Ervin for Supreme Court 2nd quarter disclosure report," July 10, 2014
  34. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Bob Hunter for Justice 1st quarter disclosure report," April 29, 2014
  35. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Bob Hunter for Justice 2nd quarter disclosure report," July 18, 2014
  36. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Justice Cheri Beasley Committee 1st quarter disclosure report," April 21, 2014
  37. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Justice Cheri Beasley Committee 2nd quarter disclosure report," July 9, 2014
  38. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Michael Robinson for NC Supreme Court 1st quarter disclosure report," April 28, 2014
  39. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Michael Robinson for NC Supreme Court 2nd quarter disclosure report," July 9, 2014
  40. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Re-elect Justice Hudson 1st quarter disclosure report," April 28, 2014
  41. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Re-elect Justice Hudson 2nd quarter disclosure report," August 29, 2014
  42. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Levinson Comm. 1st quarter disclosure report," April 28, 2014
  43. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Levinson Comm. 2nd quarter disclosure report," July 10, 2014
  44. North Carolina State Board of Elections, "Jeanette Doran for Justice mid-year semi-annual disclosure report," August 3, 2014
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