RALEIGH The only statewide judicial race is N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds running for re-election on what is considered to be a conservative bench, 4 to 3. The outcome of his race could shift the balance of judicial power as he faces a challenge from Wake Superior Court Judge Mike Morgan. Morgan was endorsed by Barack Obama this week in a YouTube message.The race is drawing national attention as an ad currently running against 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. The imagery of the black snake and the attempt to paint it as a partisan decision of Edmunds has Republicans 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.”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.The districts were redrawn in 2014 and District 12 was largely left as drawn by the previous majority. However, the ACLU sued saying that the new maps, particularly districts one and 12, were drawn to contain the African American vote and the 4th U.S. District court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs calling them “racial gerrymandering.”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 followthemoney.org, 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.Morgan’s campaign did not return requests for comment on the ad, but did present his endorsements which include the Sierra Club and Advocates for Justice as well as Obama, via YouTube, on his Facebook page.”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.”Edmunds recently was endorsed by 97 out of 100 county sheriffs and 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… Justice Edmunds has shown that he is a respected, hard-working, and reliable member of the court team,” their letter of endorsement read.In the June 7 primary, Edmunds drew 48 percent of the vote, heavily in rural areas, winning four out of every five counties. Morgan received 34 percent, winning counties around the Wilmington area, Asheville, and Durham.
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