Hoping to improve their chances of electing Republican judges in a liberal part of the state, two Mecklenburg County state senators introduced a bill Thursday that would split a judicial district in that county into three.
Similar bills could target Wake County and other urban centers.
With the likely return of partisan judicial elections, which Republicans favor, GOP legislators are concerned that it will be more difficult in urban counties in the state to elect judges who are registered Republican, because those areas are more liberal.
Senate Bill 306 would split Mecklenburg’s single, 21-judge District Court district into three with seven judges each. There are currently only three Republican District Court judges in Mecklenburg. There are already three Superior Court districts in the county.
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The division could make some of those districts more competitive for Republicans, said Sen. Jeff Tarte, a Cornelius Republican who, along with Sen. Dan Bishop, is sponsoring the bill.
“It’s straight-up political,” Tarte said Friday.
The General Assembly passed a bill this session that restores party affiliation to Superior Court and District Court races, but on Thursday Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed it. Republicans say they are confident the veto can be overridden.
When the bill was debated in the House, Democratic Leader Darren Jackson of Knightdale warned that it could backfire on Republicans. He said Wake County has six Republican judges who have been easily re-elected could be unseated by Democratic challengers, replacing competent and more experienced incumbents.