Republicans in the North Carolina legislature have spent almost as much time trying to rig the political process as they have dealing with the problems and issues that affect people’s lives. They also showed little respect for the voters, creating confusion and uncertainty in our electoral process. They’re clearly trying to protect their power even if the people want something different
This year, it was judicial elections. They made all of them partisan after two decades of nonpartisan elections. Then, they scrapped the primary system because of fear that electable Republicans might get beat by unelectable wing nuts in a Republican primary. After weakening the ability of parties to choose their nominees, they threw everybody into a winner-takes-all general election in hopes that a GOP candidate would float to the top.
But oh, the best laid plans of mice and men…
When filing ended last week, Republicans fielded two contenders in the Republican-held Supreme Court seat of Barbara Jackson while one Democrat filed. Significantly, the Democrat is likely the one Republicans want least. Anita Earls is a civil rights lawyer who has successfully sued to overturn voter suppression laws and gerrymandered districts.
In a Court of Appeals race, Republicans again fielded two candidates in a seat while Democrats fielded only one. Toby Hampson is the only Democrat facing two Republicans in what is currently a GOP held seat. Hampson surely has the advantage now.
In polls across the country, Democrats are more enthusiastic about voting. In North Carolina, grassroots meetings that once attracted a dozen or so people, now bring in a hundred or more. If those volunteers and activists turn out voters in this Blue Moon election, Democrats could have big advantage in turnout and the partisan labels will help them at the expense of split Republican tickets.
Both Earls and Hampson should prepare for merciless attacks in the coming weeks and months. The GOP is determined to control the courts and they’ll have the money spend. This election is about profits, not justice. The GOP wants to protect big business against lawsuits like the one that hit Smithfield Food last week.
Republicans have made a mess of our elections for years and refuse to stop altering the rules to benefit themselves. They’ve added partisanship to nonpartisan races and redistricted seats to benefit their party. Now, they may have screwed themselves. Instead of the advantage of incumbency, their Supreme Court Justice is weighed down by her partisan registration, essentially running a primary and a general election in the same race.
But never underestimate the GOP. They’ve got a stopgap measure. They’ve put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would give them power of appointment over new judges and also the power to add new seats. If Earls wins and the amendment passes, watch out for a court packing scheme to give the legislature additional control over the judicial branch.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >