Under the Dome

Four incumbents face challengers on NC Court of Appeals

After an N.C. Court of Appeals election last year that had 19 candidates for one seat, the 2016 ballot for the judicial seats will be a bit simpler.

Each of the four incumbents up for re-election to the court has just one opponent who filed this year – making it a whole lot easier for diligent voters to research the candidates.

While the races are officially nonpartisan, Democrats and Republicans have one candidate in each race that they’ll likely back.

Only one of the incumbents is tied to Democrats: Judge Linda Stephens, who was first appointed to the court by Gov. Mike Easley in 2006.

Her opponent is Phil Berger Jr., an administrative law judge whose dad is Senate leader Phil Berger. The younger Berger ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year and has also served as district attorney for Rockingham County.

State GOP leaders have already been promoting Berger’s candidacy.

The other three incumbents were appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory within the past year or so.

Judge Bob Hunter, who McCrory appointed after he lost a 2014 election to the Supreme Court, will face former Wake County Superior Court Judge Abe Jones. Hunter was also on the Court of Appeals from 2008 to 2014.

Judge Richard Dietz is a Winston-Salem attorney who McCrory appointed in 2014. He’ll face Wake County District Court Judge Vince Rozier.

Judge Valerie Zachary is a Yadkinville attorney – married to state Rep. Lee Zachary – who was appointed by McCrory in July. She will face Mecklenburg County District Court Judge Rickye McKoy-Mitchell.

On the N.C. Supreme Court, Justice Robert Edmunds will face the state’s first-ever retention election under a law passed by the General Assembly this year. No other candidates can run, and voters will be asked whether they’d be for or against giving Edmunds another eight-year term.