Not only will the stakes be high when four justices on the North Carolina Supreme Court are expected to seek reelection this year, but the legislature’s rewriting some laws could also contribute to runaway spending on the court elections.
A (Greensboro) News-Record editorial raises this specter in casting a dubious eye on the new laws and their impact. The headline accompanying the editorial? “Big bucks judges.”
The legislature eliminated a pioneering public financing program for judicial elections and raised individual limits on donations to judicial campaigns from $1,000 to $5,000 per election. About the changes, the editorial asks:
“Why did the legislature open to door to greater big-money influence in judicial races? Why were these changes tucked into a sweeping election reform bill highlighted by a voter ID requirement that drew almost all the attention?
“Those questions ought to concern North Carolina residents who value the fair and impartial administration of justice. This is not where more money needs to be spent.”
In the 2012 North Carolina Supreme Court contest, overall spending added up to more than $4.4 million, including $3.8 million in outside spending. Incumbent Justice Paul Newby defeated Judge Sam Ervin IV in a race that saw a flood of independent spending by outside groups.