Keep the judiciary balanced and fair
Cast informed votes in the November election
by Mary Hopper
Thanks to the incessant tinkering of the General Assembly, the judicial races have been in a perpetual state of flux. Layer on top of that, court challenges and secret maneuverings and you have a hot mess. Now on the eve of elections, we implore you to pay special attention to these races if you value the role of the judiciary.
How we got to this late date on judgeships
To give you a feel for some of the shenanigans that have transpired, here is a partial recap. The General Assembly started the process by making the races partisan. Along the way, the primaries that usually accompany partisan races were removed, so you are selecting judges in the November election instead of during the May primary. And in a process that often has involved a study committee of the Bar Association, the legislators gerrymandered Mecklenburg’s court districts, a tool they are inordinately fond of although their maps often lose to judicial review.
First, the races you can all vote for:
The NC Supreme Court
You may vote for one of the three candidates. Anita Earls is the lone Democrat. She’s made a number of campaign stops in Charlotte, so may be the best known locally. Republicans took Christopher Anglin to court in an attempt to strip him of his Republican designation saying it was done too close to his filing. They lost their case. The second Republican is Barbara Jackson (Incumbent) who is listed first on the ballot.
NC Court of Appeals
There are three seats up for election on the NC Court of Appeals; you may vote in all three races. In Seat 1 John Arrowood, Democrat, is being challenged by Republican Andrew T. Heath. Three are vying for Seat 2. Jefferson G. Griffin and Sandra Alice Ray are both Republicans. Tobias (Toby) Hampson is a Democrat. Seat 3 candidates include Allega Katherine Collins (D), Chuck Kitchen (R) and Michael Monaco, Sr, a Libertarian.
In case you did not receive and/or save a mailer on judicial races, here is a link to it: Judicial Voter Guide It has both bios and statements from all of the above-cited candidates and should prove useful in your decision making. Download and read it, please.
If you still cannot decide on your own, ask lawyer friends whose opinions align with yours or check on the Charlotte Observer endorsements when they appear. Don’t leave these races blank on your ballot.
Now, the local judgeships:
The NC legislature also decided to split Mecklenburg County into eight districts (26 A-H). That means instead of voting for all judges, which judge you get to vote for now depends on where you live. You will only get to vote for one or two judges, and all will be identified by party affiliation. Since many voters tend to support incumbent judges regardless of affiliation, incumbency is noted below.
In some ways districts might make it easier to get educated on candidates’ qualifications. However, first you must figure out which race or races (some are unopposed) you can vote in. In past articles we have explained the value of the MeckBOE.org website and finding your sample ballot. Here’s a link to our previous article explaning MeckBOE and how to navigate it.
In five Mecklenburg County races, the incumbents are the only ones running. They are Republican Matt Osman(26B) and Democrats Paige McThenia (26E), Regan Miller (26E), Tracy Hanna Hewitt (26F), and Rickye McKoy-Mitchell (26G).
There are competitive races for four district court seats. The names below are hyperlinks to ballotpedia entries.
26A, Seat 1 General election candidates
26A, Seat 2 General election candidates
26A, Seat 3 General election candidates
26F, Seat 2 General election candidates (incumbent is not running)
District Superior Court
For the Superior Court district, there’s only one competitive race (26C). That’s between Republican George Bell and Democrats Howard Clark and Reggie McKnight (the incumbent is not running). Donnie Hoover (26E), Karen Eady Williams (26F), and Lou Trosch (26H), all Democrats, are unopposed in their districts.
Why is your vote on judgeships so important?
In this fractured political environment, more and more decisions are being made at the judicial level, so it is important that this branch be non-partisan in outlook. As we have witnessed from the US Supreme Court on down, that has become less likely.
Remember as well that the fifth proposed state constitution amendment would strip the governor of the right to fill any judicial vacancies that might arise transferring that power to the General Assembly. It is worth noting that six former Chief Supreme Court Justices and all former Governors oppose this proposed amendment, regardless of their party affiliation.
NOTE: The Oct 16 Charlotte Observer ran a guest editorial (by David Erdman) on the gerrymandering of Mecklenburg Judge races that includes a map of the districts. Check it out if you have an online Observer subscription (or still have the paper!)
Another site that might be helpful in researching judicial candidates is the NC Bar Association, Judicial Performance Survey
And, Vote411.org is also a very informative site.