The N.C. Supreme Court, which had four of the seven seats up for grabs, will maintain its Republican-leaning majority.
With Democrats in only three of the races, the party majority on the seven-member court was known before any ballots were cast.
But how far the partisan scales would tilt was a topic of keen interest this year.
With 95 percent of the precincts reporting in the race for the chief justice seat between two Republicans, Mark Martin appeared to have handily turned back a challenge by Ola M. Lewis.
Martin, 51, of Apex, was appointed to the seat in the late summer after serving as an associate justice for 18 years.
Lewis, a senior resident Superior Court judge in Brunswick County, entered the race shortly before the filing period closed.
Though she used to be a registered Democrat, she changed her party affiliation to Republican almost a decade ago. At campaign stops and in interviews, Lewis said she entered the race for the chief justice seat because she thought “political gamesmanship” had occurred.
Two of the three Democrats – incumbent Robin Hudson, 62; and Sam Ervin IV, 58, an N.C. Court of Appeals judge – were leading their races.
Hudson was ahead of Eric Levinson, a Mecklenburg Superior Court judge who describes himself as a “Constitutional Conservative who is faithfully committed to the rule of law and a deliberative court process that respects the interests and concerns of all persons who come into the courtroom.”
Beasley and Mike Robinson, 59, an attorney in Winston-Salem who has campaigned on a platform that he would bring a business perspective to the high court, were tied with 50 percent each.
Ervin, was leading Robert Hunter, 67, a Republican who was appointed to the N.C. Supreme Court in September after serving for eight years on the N.C. Court of Appeals.
A year after the first legislative session in more than a century where Republicans controlled both General Assembly chambers of the governor’s office, the state’s courts are grappling with a host of legal issues that divide along partisan lines. Challenges to new election laws, school vouchers, environmental regulations, abortion clinic restrictions, congressional and legislative redistricting, and more are making their way through the state courts
The nonpartisan races saw an influx of money from outside partisan groups – $1.4 million as of last reporting, spent largely in TV ads for Republicans.
Candidates raised an additional $3.8 million, bringing the total cost of the elections to a record-breaking $5.2 million.
As the judicial candidates campaigned across the state, they stated at forum after forum that they intended to stay out of the partisan fray and weigh the lawsuits and cases before the state’s highest court on the rule of law.
North Carolina, which saw a sharp swing to the political right in 2013, has become a testing ground for some tax policies, deregulation and social-program cutbacks that national conservative organizations have promoted.