Politics has been described by some as just another sport.
When questions swirled this week about why Democrat Walter Rand, a Wake County district court candidate, paid the $1,160 filing fee for Republican, Evan Schreier, to seek the same seat, he described his actions with sports terms.
"What I did was level the playing field by helping a Republican be a candidate," Rand said Tuesday in a telephone interview.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News & Observer
Schreier, though, is not the only Republican in the race. Rand is not the only Democrat.
The two are seeking a seat in a new judicial district put in place after attorneys running for district court in Wake County began filing their candidacies with the state Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. This is the first year that all district court races in North Carolina are partisan, and lawmakers canceled judicial primaries.
That means November ballots for one seat can have multiple candidates.
Last month, a group linked to Republican consultants sent out mailers "recruiting Democratic lawyers to run for judge" as part of an apparent attempt to dilute votes for the North Carolina Democratic Party's endorsed judicial candidates.
Rand said he wondered whether partisan tricks were being played at the local level.
Also running for the one district court seat that he and Schreier are seeking are Rebecca Anne Edwards, a recently registered Democrat, Nicolette Fulton, an unaffiliated candidate, and Republican John Brian Ratledge.
The entry of Schreier has the chairman of the Wake County Republican Party crying foul.
"This is the sleaziest, most underhanded, and outrageous thing I can imagine a candidate for judge doing," Charles Hellwig, chairman of the Wake County Republican Party, said in a statement released Monday and also reported by WRAL earlier Tuesday. "For a lawyer running for judge to pay for a fake opponent in an effort to deceive and manipulate voters is simply inconceivable."
Rand and Schreier took a swing back Tuesday at Hellwig.
"There was a rumor that Republicans were going to put faux Democrats in the race to split Democrats votes," Rand said.
On Friday, the last day to file to run for judge, Rand and Schreier decided that one more candidate should be with the two Democrats, one unaffiliated candidate and one Republican already seeking the seat.
"I knew a guy thinking about running," Rand, 55, and a lawyer for 23 years, said. "He was a Republican, so I thought I could level the playing field."
"What Republicans are really mad about is it splits the Republican vote," Rand said.
The Wake County judicial districts were changed by the Republican-led legislature this year, when they overturned Gov. Roy Cooper's veto after the filing period opened.
"Their characterization of me as a fake candidate is fake news," said Schreier, 36, who said he became a Republican after law school.
Schreier said he was upset that Republican Party leaders quickly dismissed his candidacy. He was upset that they didn't ask him any questions about why he chose to run or what his platform would be.
"It's kind of like what's going on across the country," Schreier said. "Party bosses," he added, "don't want young upstarts coming in and disrupting things."