One seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court and five seats on the North Carolina Court of Appeals were up for grabs in yesterday's election.
In the race to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Edward Brady, North Carolina Court of Appeals Judge Barbara Jackson prevailed over her colleague Robert C. Hunter by a margin of 51.88% to 48.12%. As noted on National Review Online's Bench Memos blog, the political balance of the Supreme Court was in play in this election. The election of Judge Jackson, a registered Republican who Bench Memos said "worked to position herself as the candidate of choice for judicial conservatives," means that the Supreme Court will retain its 4-3 Republican majority. Governor Beverly Perdue will appoint a judge to fill Justice-elect Jackson's seat on the Court of Appeals.
Incumbents were the big winners in the North Carolina Court of Appeals races:
Judge Rick Elmore retained his seat on the Court of Appeals despite a serious challenge by Steven Walker, a law clerk at the North Carolina Supreme Court. Although the candidates remained relatively cordial throughout the campaign, Walkers credentials and qualifications for a seat on the court were repeatedly called into question by the "legal establishment."
Judge Sanford Steelman will also be returning to the Court of Appeals for another term, but because he was running unopposed his reelection was never in doubt.
The final Court of Appeals seat on the ballot was the seat recently vacated by Judge James A. Wynn upon his confirmation to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. As readers of this blog will recall, Governor Beverly Perdue appointed Cressie Thigpen to Judge Wynn's seat until a successor could be elected and sworn in.
Judge Thigpen was one of thirteen candidates who competed for Judge Wynn's seat under an Instant Runoff Voting ("IRV") system. North Carolina was the first state in the nation to use IRV for a statewide election. To summarize the IRV system, voters were required to rank their top three candidates from 1-3. If any candidate received more than 50% of the first place votes, that candidate would be declared the winner. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the first place votes, the top two first place vote getters are placed into an "instant runoff." The candidate in the instant runoff that was ranked higher on more ballots would be declared the winner.
According to the Board of Election's web site, Judge Thigpen received 20.30% of the first place votes and former North Carolina Court of Appeals judge Doug McCullough received 15.23% of the first place votes. Despite the allegedly instant nature of the runoff, a final announcement on the winner of the Thigpen/McCullough runoff is not expected for a few weeks.