Voters went to the polls Tuesday to pick judges for four open seats on the N.C. Court of Appeals — including one race with a jam-packed field of 19 candidates.
With about 93 percent of the precincts reporting late Tuesday, three current or former judges were returned to the court and one newcomer seemed headed to victory.
Newcomer Lucy Inman, a Democrat and special Superior Court judge from Raleigh, was leading Bill Southern, a Republican and District Court judge for Stokes and Surry counties in the race for the seat held by Robert C. Hunter.
Incumbent Mark A. Davis, a Democrat who was appointed to the appellate court in 2013, was headed to his first full term. He held a strong lead against challenger Paul A. Holcombe, a Clayton Republican and District Court judge for Johnston, Lee and Harnett counties.
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Donna Stroud, who has been on the appellate court since 2006, was re-elected. She ran unopposed.
In the seat held by retired Chief Judge John C. Martin, John Tyson led among 19 candidates battling it out on perhaps the most crowded judicial ballot ever in North Carolina.
The unusually competitive contest was the result of Martin’s early retirement in August — too late for a primary to narrow the race to the customary two candidates. If the retirement had been slightly later, the seat would have been filled by gubernatorial appointment.
The long ballot gave ammunition to proponents of judicial appointments, who argued there was little way for voters to make an informed choice.
Fifteen judges make up the appeals court. In panels of three, appellate judges review decisions from trial courts for errors of law or procedure.