Two Jims, two governors, together on financing judges

April 29, 2013 

Jim Holshouser was at one time a hero to his fellow Republicans. A sound legislator, a whip-smart lawyer and a good guy with a way of connecting to ordinary folks, the man with the memorable accent of his native North Carolina mountains was the first Republican elected governor of North Carolina in the 20th century, in 1972.

Jim Hunt, no less a hero to his fellow Democrats, is the only person to live in the gingerbread house on Blount Street for four terms, and in his 16 years in office championed more good vision, from improving public education to N.C. State’s Centennial Campus, than any chief executive in history.

So when these two former governors endorse something, one would think Republicans and Democrats alike might sit up and take notice. At least, they ought to.

Holshouser and Hunt, in letters to newspapers around North Carolina, support the preservation of public funding for judicial elections in North Carolina, something the state pioneered, and something 80 percent of judicial candidates have used voluntarily.

Why is it so popular? It at least reduces partisanship in elections that ought to be solely about competence and reputation. It lessens the likelihood that judicial candidates will go out stumping and spouting partisan rhetoric or taking positions on judicial issues. It also means judicial candidates don’t have to go hat-in-hand to special interests to fill their campaign coffers.

Or, as Hunt and Holshouser put it, “It frees judges from the endless money chase and prevents the appearance that justice is for sale.”

Alas, some Republican legislators and Gov. Pat McCrory aren’t keeping their heads bowed for Brothers Hunt and Holshouser and offering “Amens.” They want to do away with the financing program. Perhaps the governor and his GOP mates believe that putting special interest money into judicial campaigns will improve their party’s chances. That’s sad and it’s wrong.

Holshouser, a moderate, wouldn’t find an easy fit in his party today. But common sense is one size fits all. Or should be.

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