As key pieces of the legislative agenda get scrutiny in the courts, partisan organizations and politicians are focusing on the race for the one seat up for grabs on the North Carolina Supreme Court. The state’s highest court has a one-vote conservative majority, and that has been reflected in decisions to uphold redistricting maps found unconstitutional in the federal courts and to allow state funds to be used for private school vouchers. Justice Bob Edmunds, who has been on the state’s highest court for 16 years, is a Republican from Greensboro facing a challenge from Wake County Superior Court Judge Mike Morgan, a Democrat from Raleigh. Early voting begins in North Carolina on Oct. 20 and ends Nov. 5. Election day is Nov. 8. The candidates have been going from the coast to the mountains, speaking to individuals and groups. It was not until May that it became clear Edmunds would face any challengers in his campaign to keep his seat.
In 2015, the Republican-led General Assembly passed a law that changed how sitting justices could be re-elected. Incumbent justices could choose to stand for a retention election, meaning that voters would decide at the polls whether to keep the justice on the bench. If the voters said no, then the governor would appoint someone to fill the seat until the next election year, when the seat would be open to any candidates.
That law was struck down by a three-judge panel in February, and the state Supreme Court, with Edmunds recusing himself, deadlocked three to three on whether to uphold that decision.
Because the high court was evenly divided, the lower court ruling stood and a special primary election was hastily scheduled for June.