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State supreme court race one to watch

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By David Mickey

The political balance of North Carolina’s highest court hangs on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Two candidates are campaigning for one seat on the seven-member North Carolina Supreme Court.

Robert Edmunds

Robert Edmunds

This race is the result of a court case overturning as unconstitutional a 2015 General Assembly law that permitted judges to be “retained” without competing for the seat.

The current judge now up for re-election, Senior Associate Robert Edmunds, did not take part in that decision.

The outcome of this race could shift the court from the current 4 to 3 conservative majority to a more liberal-leaning court.  While most North Carolina Supreme Court decisions have been unanimous, recent decisions on legislative and Congressional redistricting and the taxpayer funding of private charter schools reflect the conservative majority on the court.

Judicial candidates in all levels are officially non-partisan, so candidates’ party affiliations are not shown on the ballot.

Edmunds was first elected to the court in 2000 and re-elected to a second eight-year term in 2008.  His career includes serving as a U.S. attorney, in a private law practice and as a justice for two years on the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Edmunds is a registered Republican endorsed by Gov. Pat McCrory and supported by the North Carolina Republican Party.  Other endorsements include former chief justices, 95 of North Carolina’s 100 county sheriffs (including Hyde County Sheriff Guire Cahoon), the North Carolina Conservatives Political Action Committee and the pro-gun rights group Grassroots North Carolina.

Michael Morgan

Michael Morgan

In his North Carolina State Board of Elections candidate statement, Edmunds stresses his court experience, demonstrating “impartiality, respect for our state and Federal constitutions, and dedication to the rule of law.”  His campaign website is at justiceedmunds.com.

Edmund’s challenger is Wake County Superior Court Judge Michael R. Morgan, a Democrat, who has held that seat since 2005. He previously served as a district court judge from 1994 to 2004.  Prior experience includes having been an administrative law judge and staff attorney with the North Carolina Department of Justice.  Morgan has been a faculty member at the National Judicial College for the last 24 years.

Morgan’s endorsements include the North Carolina AFL-CIO, the North Carolina Fraternal Order of Police, the Sierra Club of Western North Carolina, the North Carolina Association of Educators and the Triangle newspaper “Indy Week.”

Morgan’s candidate statement focuses on his 26 years as a trial judge:

“As a supreme court justice, I shall continue my judicial and personal commitment to promote and preserve fairness, impartiality and justice for all in North Carolina’s court system.”  Morgan’s campaign website is at judgemichaelmorgan.com.