The Daily Tar Heel - Supreme Court Justice Edmunds Back, But Different

News Article

By:  Robert Edmunds, Jr.
Date: Sept. 23, 2008
Location: Unknown


The Daily Tar Heel - Supreme Court Justice Edmunds Back, But Different

Caroline Dye

For N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds, his re-election campaign is a whole new game.

This is the first year that Edmunds will run without party affiliation, as now required by state law.

When Edmunds last ran in 2000, he ran as a Republican candidate and raised his own campaign funds. During his eight-year term, nonpartisan judicial elections and public financing of campaigns were implemented.

The UNC College Republicans hosted Edmunds on Monday night. He spoke to about 35 members about the N.C. Supreme Court and the changing process of electing N.C. justices.

The new system has both pros and cons, Edmunds said.

Visibility of the race on the ballot could cause problems because the judicial contests are now at the bottom of the ballot, where voters might not notice them, he said.

"(Voters) often quit before they get to the judges. There's going to be a drop-off this election."

Judicial races already face an obstacle because they are typically low-profile races.

"They're not the sexiest races," said Edmunds' campaign manager, Andrew Brown. "But the impact of their work is far-reaching."

People aware of the changes to the judicial race will be more influential in that race than others because of the drop-off in voters, Edmunds said.

"You're going to be swimming in a considerably smaller pool," Edmunds said.

Also different this year is the option for public financing of elections. Edmunds opted to take the public funds.

The new public financing system restricts the judicial campaigns, he said. He received about $300,000 from the state this year.

"That's not enough to send one letter to every voter in Mecklenburg County. … It makes it harder on the candidates," he said.

Candidates who opt out of the public financing system have a disincentive for raising their own money because opponents will be proportionally compensated by the state.

Complicating matters is the fact that without a partisan campaign, candidates have to work outside the party apparatuses, he said.

"The parties still identify the candidates as their own."

Edmunds said judicial races have a unique dynamic because they deal with a different political spectrum — their political leaning depends mainly on their resistance to changing law, he said.

"We are on a different axis," he said. "We're not traditional candidates. We're not going to talk about issues."

He identified himself as a conservative judge who believes strongly in precedent.

"Justices should not be the ones to change the law," he said.

Even though justices' decisions have a less noticeable impact on the lives of college students, they still affect issues such as education and educational funding, Brown said.

Right now, the Supreme Court is evaluating the constitutionality of the lottery bill passed in the legislature, which applies revenue from the sale of lottery tickets to education.

"I think he is qualified and experienced, said College Republicans Political Strategy Chairman Jason Sutton. "It would be great to see him back on the Supreme Court."