State Supreme Court candidate Sam J. Ervin IV quickly gathered media Friday with a pointed retort to an attack ad that had just hit the airwaves.
The 30-second ad, which Ervin described as “exceedingly misleading” and “an act of desperation” that “crosses the line,” came from one of the super PACs pumping outside money into the campaign to re-elect state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby.
Ervin, an appellate court judge, asked why the out-of-state organizations, including an offshoot of the National Republican Party, had injected more than $2.5 million into an effort to defeat his candidacy for state Supreme Court. “What do they expect in return for all this money?” Ervin asked.
Most of the funding for the super PAC, known as Justice for All N.C., comes from the Washington-based Republican State Leadership Committee, which has contributed more than $1 million to the effort so far.
The ad claims that Ervin and family members contributed thousands of dollars to “convicted felon Mike Easley’s campaign” – ignoring the fact that the campaign contributions would have been made before the former governor was convicted in 2010 of knowingly filing a false campaign report.
The ad goes on to say that Easley appointed Ervin to the state Utilities Commission. It says Ervin voted to raise utility rates by millions of dollars.
Ervin pointed out that he gave Easley money for his state attorney general campaign, but had not contributed to his gubernatorial campaign.
Ervin’s initial appointment to the Utilities Commission was by former Gov. Jim Hunt. He was reappointed by Easley, but Ervin refuted the suggestions by the ad.
“As a commissioner, I consistently tried to follow the law regardless of the political popularity of my decisions,” Ervin said. “I believe that my willingness to make tough decisions in a fair, impartial and legally correct manner is exactly what the voters of this state should expect from a person sitting on the state’s highest court.”
The ad drew criticism from Brent Laurenz, executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization.
Newby and Ervin are both taking part in the state’s judicial public financing program, which offers judicial candidates an opportunity to campaign without having to raise money from individuals or groups that may one day stand before them in court.
“Unfortunately, several outside groups have been spending heavily in hopes of shaping the outcome of the state Supreme Court race,” Laurenz said. “Rather than help inform voters about this important election, at best the messages produced by these groups have been largely unconstructive and sometimes outright misleading. At worst, these messages could threaten voter confidence in the judiciary.”