Supreme Court or Extreme Court? Pick one.
I’m sure most people reading this don’t need me to tell them there’s an election taking place. You see the yard signs scattered all over the place, endure the television commercials trying to pull you this way or that, or hang up the phone when you realize that NASCAR driver isn’t really on the phone with you, he just made a recording for somebody. But even though you’re aware the election is happening, you may be operating with some misconceptions of what purpose the Primary Election serves. The truth is, there is more than one purpose that can be served in a Primary, which is why I’m writing this.
Due to the fact that our judicial races are “non-partisan” in nature, Republican movers and shakers have discovered a loophole that could completely reverse the way our election process unfolds this season. Robin Hudson, a sitting Supreme Court Justice who also happens to be a Democrat, is having to defend her seat on the Court this year. Nothing out-of-theway about that, it is an elected body. She had a Republican opponent she would face off against in November, so she was shaping a campaign strategy in her mind. But at the last minute, a second Republican filed to run for that seat also, which changed everything.
Because our “non-partisan” judicial race in November can only have two candidates vying for that seat, the now three candidates will face off in the Primary to decide which top two vote-getters will meet in the General Election. That’s right, Justice Robin Hudson could lose her seat in less than a week from now, with two Republicans facing off in the General Election come November. Which is exactly the opposite of what you probably assumed the Primary was for, is it not?
Make no mistake, it’s no coincidence this third candidate jumped into the race, just as it’s no coincidence this latecomer has been on Art Pope’s payroll for several years at one of his “institutes.” This is a calculated move to exploit both a quirk in our elections laws and the general lack of knowledge and concern voters have over judicial contests. But those movers and shakers aren’t satisfied with merely unbalancing the boat and leaving this up to luck. Oh, no. In for a penny, in for a pound. And these folks got a lot of pounds.
By the time you read this, you will probably have watched several television commercials about this race. And yes, they are mighty expensive. The NC Chamber, who is monetarily supported by such luminaries as the Koch Brothers and big tobacco, has set aside $225,000 to spend on ads for the two Republicans, while Justice For All NC just received $650,000 from the DC dark money clearinghouse Republican State Leadership Committee to run ads against Robin Hudson. The latter is the same group who spent $1.1 million on television ads and mailers to get Paul Newby elected to the Supreme Court two years ago. You remember the banjopicking “tough on crime” commercial I’m sure, which brings us to the next topic of discussion, the NC Supreme Court itself.
The Court is tasked with many things, but being “tough on crime” or “easy on crime” are not included on that list. First and foremost, they make sure lower court rulings don’t infringe on the NC Constitution or established NC Statute, and the Justices also have to make sure lower courts haven’t misinterpreted or misused precedent in coming to their decisions. “Tough” doesn’t come into it, and it shouldn’t. That’s not what the Supreme Court is for. Keep that in mind while watching the television for the next few days, and later in the year if Robin Hudson survives the Primary, because they will be gunning for her again.
I know many reading this are Conservative, and may not be as sympathetic to this situation as others. But here’s something you need to keep in mind: the movers and shakers who want to sweep the NC Supreme Court clean of Democrats are not doing so to keep the Court from acting “radical.” They are doing so because they want the Court to act radical. There is already a Republican majority of 4-3 on the Court, which is good for you and me because that balance (much like the 5-4 US Supreme Court) provides for a swing vote if the majority overreaches, or loses sight of its Constitutional focus. And when you have such a balance, the arguments for each side are vigorous and well-researched. They have to be, if they want to capture that swing vote. But if the Court goes 5-2, or even 6-1? Intelligent arguments are no longer really necessary, are they?
Food for thought: no matter what happens in this Primary race, there will be a Republican running in the General Election come November. If every Republican reading this voted for Robin Hudson now, there would still be a Republican for them to vote for in November. Why would they want to do this? Some might because it’s the “fair” thing to do, but politics isn’t always fair. An even better reason may be to send a message to those wealthy out-of-state people who already control so much:
“Our Supreme Court is not for sale.
Take your money somewhere else.” !
STEVE HARRISON, of Gibsonville, is a writer and senior administrator for the Progressive website BlueNC.