Ad opposing Justice Bob Edmunds re-election stirs accusations of race baiting, as Obama endorses Morgan

Eamon Queeney—North State Journal
North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Robert Edmunds

RALEIGH – As the state’s political temperature spikes, the intensity of the N.C. Supreme Court race is hitting what some are calling “a new low.” An ad currently running against N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds portrays the state’s 12th Congressional District as a black snake, slinking across the state, accusing Edmunds of signing off on the district that was later rejected as gerrymandering. Pulling mostly headlines from newspaper editorial pages, the ad tries to link Edmunds to the districts that were drawn in 1991 and 2001 by Democrats in the state legislature. However, the imagery of the black snake and the attempt to paint it as a partisan decision of Edmunds has some calling it race baiting. “This is a new low in N.C. elections,” said state GOP Chairman Robin Hayes. “This racially-charged and explosive ad has no place in our state. I call upon the chairman of the Democratic Party to join me in denouncing this disgusting ad, and call upon members of the media to expose the dark-money contributors who are trying to attach such a tainted falsehood to our state.” At issue is the 12th Congressional District, which was drawn in 1991 and then again in 2001 by Democrats when Dan Blue, also a Democrat, was Speaker of the House. At the time, it was supported by Alma Adams, who currently holds that seat, and by Mel Watt, who held the seat from 1993 to 2014. Both Adams and Watt are Democrats.”Respecting the legal precedent set by the Democrat-drawn 12th Congressional District — a district that was intentionally drawn to disenfranchise Republicans — Justice Edmunds acted in a bipartisan capacity and allowed their work to stand. Justice Edmunds is an honorable man of integrity. Having Edmunds on on the North Carolina Supreme Court means that we will have a Constitutional voice who will ensure that we have equal representation and equal voice for all,” said Dr. Ada M. Fisher, N.C. Republican National Committeewoman.Edmunds’ opponent is N.C. Superior Court Judge Mike Morgan of Wake County. On Monday he was endorsed by President Barack Obama in the race through a YouTube message. “The Supreme Court race in North Carolina is pivotal,” said Obama in the message. “Key issues including gerrymandering, civil rights, coal ash, school vouchers and many others have come before this court. We need judges with a track record of reviewing cases and acting in a consistent, impartial manner. Judge Mike Morgan will serve North Carolina well on the N.C. Supreme Court.”The race has garnered a lot of national attention because the current court is considered conservative, 4 to 3. The ad against Edmunds was purchased by “N.C. Families First” which received funding from the national-level Democratic Governor’s Association, a group also supporting Roy Cooper’s run for the Governor’s Mansion. The DGA also funded statewide television ads through N.C. Families First against H.B. 2.A group called N.C. Citizens for Protecting our Schools, which says its mission is to raise teacher pay, also gave $1.4 million to N.C. Families First in April. According to, the group also gave more than $200,000 in 2012 to Court of Appeals Judge Sam Ervin IV in an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Paul Newby on the state’s high court. N.C. Families First gave more than $2 million to work against Republican campaigns in the 2014 election cycle. N.C. Citizens for Protecting our Schools also gave money to defeat many Republican House members from 2012 to 2014, focusing heavily on Tom Murry and Nathan Ramsey. In total, the group gave less that $800,000 to fight House campaigns, so giving $1.4 million towards the Edmunds ad and their work to defeat Newby in 2012 indicates that the group has their sights set firmly on the N.C. Supreme Court.In the June 7 primary, which is officially nonpartisan, Edmunds claimed 48 percent of votes and Morgan received 34 percent. Morgan’s campaign, the N.C. Democratic Party and N.C. Families First did not comment on the ad when requested.In the race to retain his seat on the N.C. Supreme Court, Edmunds recently was endorsed by four former chief justices of the court, two Democrats and two Republicans: Rhoda B. Billings, Jim Exum, Burley Mitchell and I. Beverly Lake.”We have seen Justice Edmunds’ work. He has demonstrated in his years on the court that he is an independent justice who understands and abides by the rule of law. His opinions are legally sound. Moreover, the work of the court is highly collaborative. The justices constantly consult as they reach their results and draft their opinions. Justice Edmunds has shown that he is a respected, hard­working, and reliable member of the court team,” their letter of endorsement read. In the primary, Edmunds won four out of every five counties, with strong support from rural areas. Morgan won counties in the northeast, the Wilmington area, Asheville, and Durham. Morgan has served 27 years on the bench and is currently on North Carolina Superior Court’s third division in Wake County. He has endorsements from the N.C. Democratic Party, the N.C. Sierra Club, N.C. Fraternal Order of Police, Advocates for Justice, and the N.C. Association of Educators.Edmunds has served 16 years on the state Supreme Court, formerly served two years on the North Carolina Court of Appeals, and was also in private practice. He has received endorsements from the N.C. Republican Party, 97 of the state’s 100 sheriffs, the N.C. Police Benevolent Society, and the N.C. State Troopers Association.In the past few years, the court has weighed in on changes to teacher tenure rights, when and where North Carolinians vote, and even who was in the constitutional right when Gov. Pat McCrory sued fellow Republican and Senate leader Phil Berger over commission appointments.