Politics & Government

Democrat Anita Earls claims victory in NC Supreme Court race

Democrat Anita Earls declares victory in NC Supreme Court race

Democratic NC Supreme Court candidate Anita Earls thanks supporters while declaring victory during an election night event Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 at the NC Democratic Party Headquarters in Raleigh.
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Democratic NC Supreme Court candidate Anita Earls thanks supporters while declaring victory during an election night event Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 at the NC Democratic Party Headquarters in Raleigh.

Anita Earls, the Democratic candidate for a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court, claimed victory Tuesday night.

With 99 percent of the state’s 2,700 voting precincts reporting results at 11:30 p.m., Earls had half of the vote. The two Republicans in the race, including incumbent justice Barbara Jackson, split the other half of the vote.

“I promise to apply the law equally to everyone, no matter their race or how much money they have in their pocket,” Earls said in her victory statement. “An impartial judiciary that operates without fear or favor is the cornerstone of a healthy and thriving democracy. I look forward to being a part of that work.”

The race for Supreme Court was the most high-profile statewide race this year, except for possibly the six constitutional amendments on the ballot. The court currently has a 4-3 Democratic majority, and Earls will shift it to a 5-2 Democratic majority.

Although much of the court’s work is non-political, it often rules on lawsuits involving the state legislature or governor.

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Earls, 58, founded the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and is best known for her work filing voting rights lawsuits and waging legal battles against gerrymandering and voter ID.

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Democratic NC Supreme Court candidate Anita Earls thanks supporters while declaring victory during an election night event Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 at the NC Democratic Party Headquarters in Raleigh. Travis Long tlong@newsobserver.com@newsobser

Jackson 56, has been a judge on the N.C. Supreme Court since 2010 and was previously on the N.C. Court of Appeals. Jackson was in second place by 10:30 p.m. and 15 percentage points behind Earls.

Chris Anglin, 32, is a relatively unknown Raleigh attorney and Republican challenger. Many Republicans believed he was secretly a Democrat seeking to spoil the race, although he denied that.

Court of Appeals

Voters across the state were also asked to pick three judges for the N.C. Court of Appeals.

Three seats were up for grabs, and incumbents, Ann Marie Calabria and Rick Elmore chose not to seek re-election.

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Seat 1: The incumbent justice, 62-year-old Democrat John Arrowood, faced Republican challenger Andrew Heath, 37. Both are political insiders and have backgrounds in business law. With 99 percent of precincts reporting as of 11:30 p.m., Arrowood had a narrow lead of about 1 percent.

Seat 2: The race for Calabria’s seat was a three-way contest between two Republicans and a Democrat. The three candidates were Jefferson Griffin, Sandra Ray and Toby Hampson.

Griffin and Ray are Republicans and Hampson is a Democrat.

At 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, Hampson had a double-digit lead over Griffin, who was in second place.

Seat 3: The race for Elmore’s seat was a three-way contest between Republican Chuck Kitchen, Democrat Allegra Katherin Collins and Libertarian Michael Monaco.

At 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, Collins had a narrow lead of about 1 percent over Kitchen.

Trial court races

Voters across the Triangle and the rest of the state also elected trial court judges for district and superior court. District court handles cases like traffic tickets and misdemeanors, while superior court handles more serious cases like felonies and complex civil cases.

In Wake County, there were two contested races.

One district court judge race was a five-way contest between Evan Charles Schreier, Nicolette Fulton, Walter Rand, Rebecca Anne Edwards and J. Brian Ratledge.

Ratledge, one of the Republicans running, was winning with 30.67 percent of the vote at 11:30 p.m., although one precinct was still not reported. The two Democrats in the race, Edwards and Rand, were in second and third place with between 26 and 29 percent of the vote.

Democratic incumbent Keith Gregory, a Superior Court judge, won re-election with more than 70 percent of the vote. He faced unaffiliated challenger Matt Van Sickle.

Durham County had three contested judicial races, and two district court judges lost their jobs to Democratic challengers.

Republican incumbent district court judges James T. Hill lost to Democratic challenger Clayton Jones. And incumbent Democratic district court judge, Fred Battaglia Jr., lost to a fellow Democrat in challenger Dave Hall.

In the third Durham County judicial race, for a superior court seat, Josephine Kerr Davis defeated Dawn Baxton. Both are Democrats.

Around the rest of the area, Orange and Chatham counties share judges. So do Johnston, Harnett and Lee counties. Neither of those judicial circuits had any contested races.

Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran
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