Following is a commentary I wrote and recorded for Chapelboro regarding the upcoming November elections.  Of particular concern to me were the judicial elections.  Despite the advent of public financing, it was apparent that “big money” was being spent to influence the judicial elections as a result of the United States Supreme Court Citizens United decision.

It is election time, and we should all have great concern about how little the voters know about our appellate judicial candidates.  Studies have shown that people sometimes vote for certain candidates based simply on their gender or their name.

In our one North Carolina Supreme Court race, a new Super PAC has spent more than $800,000 to try to keep conservative Justice Paul Newby on the court.  Newby is being challenged by North Carolina Court of Appeals Judge Sam Ervin IV.  If Judge Ervin wins, the philosophical bent on the court will likely shift.

Newby has stated that he is not bothered by unlimited spending by PACs in elections, because this supports a “free speech” concept and helps people learn about the candidates. Democracy N.C. has said that “this is not free speech, it is purchased speech.”  Ervin has stated that he worries this excess of outside money will erode the public’s confidence in the judiciary.   By the way, if you have a chance, find the Newby banjo ad on the web and watch it.  I like banjo music, but I am not sure what “being tough on crime” has to do with applying the law as an appellate judge!

As for the remaining appellate races, there are three incumbents running for re-election to the Court of Appeals:  Judges Linda McGee, Wanda Bryant and Cressie Thigpen.  These judges bring diversity, as well as – in my opinion – years of sound appellate experience to the bench.

In North Carolina, appellate judges run state-wide – a monumental task – without a party affiliation on the ballot.  This means that voters need to be educated about these judicial elections, arguably the most important elections in our state.  These courts issue decisions that affect North Carolinians on a daily basis.  Visit the candidate and party web sites, read the Public Funding Voter Guide that you received in the mail, talk to attorneys you know, read the endorsements of groups you trust.

Please be an informed voter and inform others.