Court of Appeals Judge Cressie Thigpen (20 percent) and former court member Doug McCullough (15 percent) were the top two vote-getters out of the 13 candidates seeking to fill a Court of Appeals seat in North Carolina. Since no candidate received at least 50 percent of the vote, voters’ second and third choices will be counted in final tallies following North Carolina’s first instance of instant runoff voting.
The seat was vacated by Judge James Wynn Jr. after his appointment to the Fourth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Thigpen was appointed by Gov. Beverly Perdue to fill out the remainder of this term. Because Wynn’s appointment came so late in the election process, it wasn’t possible to hold primary elections. To save money and prevent a winner with significantly less than 50 percent of the vote — which often happens when a large number of candidates are on the ballot in non-partisan elections — instant runoff voting (IRV) was be used, for the first time ever in statewide election in the state.
Voters ranked their first, second and third choices for the Court of Appeals seat on Election Day. Since no candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote, second and third choices will be added to the first round totals to determine the winner. Unfortunately, according to the State Board of Elections, the additional counting won’t begin until November 29.
More than 2.6 million North Carolinians cast ballots in the U.S. Senate race, but just 1.9 million voted in this Court of Appeals race. The drop-off from the top of the ticket, which is seen in all judicial races in North Carolina, is due mainly to two factors: One is that straight-party ballots, voting either for all Republicans or Democrats up for election, do not include non-partisan judicial elections. The second reason is that many voters say they simply don’t know enough about the judicial races to feel comfortable voting in those races.
Though this is a non-partisan race, the judicial philosophies between McCullough and Thigpen seem to be pronounced. McCollough, a registered Republican, in a candidate survey by the NC Free Enterprise Foundation (PDF) listed Judge Anton Scalia as the U.S. Supreme Court justice whose judicial philosophy most closely reflected his own. By contrast, Thigpen, a registered Democrat, was asked in a recentinterview with the Independent Weekly which Supreme Court decision was most important. He answered, “Probably the recent case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. This is the case in which the United States Supreme Court held that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in a candidate election cannot be limited under the First Amendment. My responsibility as a state appellate court judge is to follow the holding in the Citizens United case whether I agree or disagree with the holding.”
Scalia sided with the 5-4 majority in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The ruling overturned part of the McCain–Feingold Act that prohibited corporations and unions from running “electioneering communications,” which are radio or TV ads that mention a candidate for office by name.
(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/mrbill)Tags: Anton Scalia, Citizens United, NC Court of Appeals, Supreme Court