Report finds increased spending in state judicial elections

kreilly@newsobserver.comMarch 19, 2014 

A new report is providing insight into the future money race in North Carolina’s judicial elections now that the state’s public financing program is no longer available.

The National Institute on Money in State Politics study identified an overall increase in spending for state judicial campaigns across the country. In 2011 and 2012 judicial elections, a total of $53.6 million was raised directly by candidates competing in high court races in 35 states and intermediate appellate court races in 29 states.

This number was up from $45.4 million in 2009 and 2010, and down from $63.4 million in 2007 and 2008.

North Carolina stood out because of the number of its candidates who utilized public funds in their campaigns. North Carolina was the only state with candidates who used public funds in both high court and intermediate appellate court elections.

It was one of three states with high court candidates who used available public funding. Sam Ervin IV and Paul Newby both used $240,100 in public funds, which made up 72 percent and 75 percent of their total fundraising, respectively.

At the intermediate appellate court level, North Carolina and New Mexico were the only states whose candidates took advantage of public funding available to them.

A separate report released in February found that public funds accounted for 56 percent of all funds raised by N.C. Supreme Court candidates between 2004 and 2012. Candidates’ personal contributions and political party contributions both decreased while the program was available.

North Carolina’s judicial public financing program was repealed in 2013. Without the option of using public funds in 2014, candidates will have to rely on personal finances and contributions from political parties and interest groups to stay competitive in judicial races for which money and incumbency provide significant advantages.

Almost two-thirds of the 494 judicial candidates across the country in 2011 and 2012 raised money for their campaign, while 166 of the 176 candidates running in contested races raised money.

Overall, the report found 71 percent of candidates who raised the most money won their election, and 87 percent of incumbents won their election.

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