A Great Day for Democrats in North Carolina – 2018 Election Results

Democrats Broke Supermajorities in the North Carolina General Assembly and Won Statewide Judicial Elections

Yesterday, voters from across our state came together to elect dynamic new leadership to the NC General Assembly that will break the Republican supermajorities in both the State House and the State Senate. Based upon vote totals at this time, 6 new members were elected to the State Senate, and 8 new members have been elected to the State House.

The new members of the Senate will be Natasha Marcus, who defeated Jeff Tarte by 11,680 votes, Sam Searcy, who defeated Tamara Barringer by 3,798 votes, Michael Garret, who defeated Trudy Wade by 763 votes, Harper Peterson, who defeated Michael Lee by 36 votes, Kirk DeViere, who defeated Wesley Meredith by 306 votes, and of course Wiley Nickel was elected to a new seat in Wake County. These vote totals are preliminary since provisional ballots as well as absentee ballots will still need to be counted and it could potentially change the outcome in some of these close races. It really speaks to why when we say that every vote counts — we mean it.

In the State House, the victories went to Sydney Batch, Terence Everitt, Brandon Lofton, Ray Russel, Christy Clarke, Joe Sam Queen, and Julie von Haefen. The race of Rachel Hunt remains too close to call since she is only 52 votes down at this time. I’d like to congratulate all of the statewide candidates for judgeships who won, and, in particular, I would like to congratulate the newest member of our State Supreme Court, Anita Earls. Those winning seats on the Court of Appeals were John Arrowood, Toby Hampson, and Allegra Collins.

Unfortunately, four of the proposed constitutional amendments were approved by voters including the one which will require voter I.D.’s in the future. Voters soundly defeated the amendments that would change the way judges are appointed in our state as well as the one which would have changed the makeup of our State Board of Elections and Ethics.

I spent yesterday visiting many of Durham’s voting precincts, and, as the evening went on, I was up until 2:00 am watching vote totals come in in contested General Assembly races and celebrating with those who won statewide judgeships. It was a great and exciting day for NC, and particularly for the Democrats who offered themselves for the consideration of voters.

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A Debate Relating to a Proposed Constitutional Amendment

Tonight, it was my pleasure to participate as a panelist in the debate dealing with the proposed constitutional amendment which will change the way that judges are appointed in the State of North Carolina if it is approved by voters. The debate was hosted by the NC Institute of Political Leadership and held at the beautiful Merony Theatre in Downtown Salisbury.

The other panelists for the debate were Wayne Goodwin, who is a former Insurance Commissioner and currently Chairman of the State Democratic Party, as well as Senator Paul Newton, a Republican who serves portions of Cabarrus and Union counties, and Attorney Brent Woodcox, who is a Special Counsel to Senator Phil Berger, the President Pro-Tempore of the NC Senate. Loretta Boniti of Spectrum News served as the moderator for the debate which lasted one hour.

A portion of the debate will air on her program “In Focus” which broadcasts on Sunday’s on Spectrum News at 11:00 am and again at 8:00 pm. The full debate will be available on Spectrum’s website. Currently, the governor has the power, under our State’s Constitution, to appoint those who will serve as judges in our state when vacancies occur due to death or resignation.

Today, when vacancy occurs, local attorneys in a judicial district all come together, meet, and vote to recommend five names to the governor. The governor typically picks from the list of five names recommended by the local bar association. If this constitutional amendment passes, local attorneys could potentially be excluded from this process, and, in addition, the General Assembly would have the sole authority to recommend two names to the governor to fill any judicial vacancy. The governor would then have to select between the two people recommended, otherwise the General Assembly would fill the vacancy. If the General Assembly was out of session, then the Chief Justice of the NC Supreme Court would fill the vacancy. The governor would not have any authority to veto a bill solely containing judicial vacancies.

This would inject politics right into the heart and center of the judicial appointment process. In the original version of this bill, which was determined to be unconstitutional by a three-judge panel of Superior Court judges, it would also remove the power of the governor to appoint members to over 400 boards and commissions. This was ultimately removed after a court decision. Please recall that, within the last year, the Republican majority has made all judicial races partisan and eliminated all judicial primaries, and, in addition, they attempted to re-draw all Superior Court and District Court judicial districts in our state to guarantee Republicans at least two-thirds of the seats. They also reduced the number of members on the NC Court of Appeals by three members. All of this was done because, since 2010, more than 15 laws passed by the Republican majority in the General Assembly have been shot down by the courts. The GOP now wants to control the courts to have judges that are favorable to their interests. We need a fair, independent, impartial judiciary. Please vote against this amendment and Nix all Six proposed constitutional amendments coming before you for consideration this November.

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Party Affiliation Must Be Shown for NC Supreme Court Candidates

Wake County Superior Court Judge Rules that Party Affiliation Must Be Shown for NC Supreme Court Candidates

Yesterday, Wake County Superior Court Judge Becky Holt overturned a law recently passed in a Special Session of the North Carolina General Assembly which prohibited the party affiliation of NC Supreme Court Candidates from being shown on this November’s ballot if the candidate had changed his/her party affiliation within 90 days of running for office. The Republican majority had passed this bill after they discovered there would be two Republicans running for a seat on the NC Supreme Court, and only one Democrat, Anita Earls.

Chris Anglin, a Republican, had brought a lawsuit to keep his Republican Party affiliation on the ballot as well as Rebecca Edwards, a Democrat who was running to become a District Court Judge in Wake County. The judge ruled that, as to these two candidates, that their party affiliations when they filed to run for office must appear on the ballot. I am gratified by Judge Holt’s decision even though I am sure that it is likely to be appealed to a higher court. I would like to state that before the Republican majority passed a bill eliminating judicial primaries, I pointed out in committee meetings and in debate on the Senate floor that they were opening up the door for having potentially multiple Republicans and multiple Democrats running for the same seats, but they did not seem to care much about it at that point when they thought it would be multiple Democrats running against only one Republican. I also argued against making judicial races partisan at all since we should always seek the best judges, regardless of party affiliation. Maybe my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will stop trying to write the rules simply to favor their candidates and the odds of them winning an election or changing the rules once they have been written simply to favor their candidates of choice.

July 24th Special Session Bills Impact on Upcoming Elections

Updates from the July 24th Special Session

House Bill 3 would limit public knowledge and understanding of proposed amendments.

Today, a bill was filed and introduced known as “House Bill 3” titled “Ballot Designations/Referenda.” The sole purpose of the bill was to eliminate the power of a commission currently composed of Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, a Democrat, Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, and Paul Coble, a Republican who’s in charge of legislative services at the General Assembly, from writing a brief caption or synopsis of each of the six constitutional amendments that will appear on the ballot in November’s General Election. This means that the public will not have any context or understanding of these amendments. As it currently stands, the language that will appear relating to each constitutional amendment is vague, obscure, and, in many instances, disguises the true purpose and intent of each of the constitutional amendments. Therefore, voters could be persuaded and misled into voting for an amendment because they are worded in a way that might lead someone to believe that they were a good idea. This type of intentional voter deception is problematic and unfortunate. The true purpose of these amendments is for the Republican majority to do messaging around them that will increase the turnout of their base voters in November.

The Republican majority is afraid that, without these constitutional amendments on the ballot to drive out their base, Democrats have an excellent opportunity to break the Republican supermajority and to potentially take the majority in this year’s General Election. I hope that voters will be smart enough not to be persuaded by these type of tactics. Two of these amendments are specifically targeted at undercutting the authority of Governor Cooper and future governors to appoint persons serving on over 400 boards and commissions as well as appointing judges in our state in a manner in which it has been conducted for decades. This is why former governors, both Republicans and Democrats, are opposed to the idea of amendments curtailing the power of our governor, which is already weaker than many states.

Senate Bill 3 will impact Judicial Candidates in Upcoming Election

In addition to House Bill 3, there was also another bill introduced today known as Senate Bill 3, which passed the Senate. The primary purpose of Senate Bill 3 was to eliminate Republican competition in the race for the North Carolina Supreme Court. Justice Barbara Jackson, who is a Republican serving on the court, is being challenged by Anita Earls, who is a Democrat, and announced her candidacy early this year after the Republican majority made judicial races partisan. Anita was well-regarded and respected as an attorney due to her successful challenges of laws enacted by the General Assembly that were determined to be unconstitutional due to racial gerrymandering. Last year, the Republican majority also eliminated judicial primaries, therefore, it was possible for more than one Democrat or more than one Republican to seek positions at the same time in the General Election.

When the judicial filing period opened in June, Christopher Anglin announced that he was seeking a seat on the NC Supreme Court as a Republican. This would’ve meant that two Republicans were both running for the same seat that Anita Earls, a Democrat, was running for which would have likely increased her chances of winning. Therefore, today, Senate Bill 3 was introduced which was specifically targeted at Christopher Anglin, since he was previously registered as a Democrat before he decided to run for a seat on the NC Supreme Court. Senate Bill 3 essentially states that a candidate who changed his party affiliation within 90 days of filing for office would not be listed as running as a Republican or as a Democrat, or even as an Independent. The person would have no party affiliation next to their name, or they would be allowed to withdraw from the race altogether.

During debate on the floor of the Senate, it was clear that this was the purpose of Senate Bill 3, even though the bill theoretically applies to all judicial candidates in the State of North Carolina. When I asked today in the Rules Committee whether the bill sponsor or any person with our State Board of Elections could identify how many candidates would be impacted by this bill, no one could provide a number, and the only person identified was Christopher Anglin. During debate on the floor today of the Senate, another candidate in Wake County was identified as potentially being impacted by this bill as well.

I ran an amendment today that would require the State Board of Elections to provide notice to all judicial candidates of this new law via e-mail, telephonic communications, written notice, or by other electronic means as expeditiously as possible. This amendment was adopted as a part of the bill. Hopefully, if there are other candidates impacted, then they will find out how this bill impacts them in an expedient manner. It is absolutely wrong and unconscionable to change an important rule of this type after the filing period for a position has opened and closed simply because the General Assembly is not happy with the party affiliation of the candidates who had filed. I am positive that if two Democrats were seeking the position on the NC Supreme Court and only 1 Republican had filed, then we would not have been brought back to change the law. Please, this is one further reason why we must come out this November and vote to take back our state and to change the makeup of the North Carolina General Assembly.

The People’s Alliance Judicial Candidate Mixer

I would like to thank the People’s Alliance for hosting an outstanding judicial candidate’s forum yesterday at Motorco. Judicial candidates or their representatives who are running for statewide offices as well as those running locally were allowed a few minutes to discuss their qualifications and perspective. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Attorney Nana Asante-Smith for doing an excellent job as the moderator of this event. Her approach was very even-handed and respectful; however, she did not hesitate to stop each candidate from exceeding the time they were given for remarks.

This may well be the only event this year where all of the judicial candidates running statewide and locally, regardless of whether they have opposition or are running unopposed, were assembled in one location for the public to hear and observe. There were also candidates running as Soil and Water Conservation Commissioners who were given time to speak at this event as well. 

There are many more pictures from this event over on our Facebook Page.

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