Morgan unseats Edmunds for NC Supreme Court seat

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
N.C. Supreme Court candidate Mike Morgan

RALEIGH — Judge Mike Morgan won the race for a seat on the N.C. Supreme Court, beating out incumbent Justice Bob Edmunds. Morgan is a Wake County Superior Court judge and was endorsed by President Barack Obama and advocacy groups like the ACLU of N.C. His victory shifts the balance of power on the state’s high court, which is now leaning liberal, 4 to 3.”Michael Morgan is an incredibly thoughtful judge whose presence on the Supreme Court will certainly impact the personality of the state’s highest court,” said Courtney Crowder, a Democratic strategist. “His background as a scholar, a professor who trains judges around the country will serve him well. Morgan will impress everyone who gives him a chance to do so.”While state judicial elections often fly under the radar in a presidential year, this one received a lot of attention and campaign money from across the country. Outside spending on the race — the amount spent by groups other than the candidates — topped $2.2 million.The upset is being attributed to several factors, including a pair of ads paid for by N.C. Families First that blamed Edmunds for the design of congressional Districts 1 and 12, which was later ruled to be race-driven gerrymandering. The districts were actually drawn in the 1990s by a Democrat-controlled General Assembly, but the ads still drew a lot of attention. However, others say the reason for Morgan’s win might be much simpler.”You didn’t have a party label on the ballot for the Morgan/Edmunds race, and Republicans were listed first on the ballot in every other race,” said Mitch Kokai, senior political analyst at the John Locke Foundation. “People voting for Republicans may have assumed Morgan was a Republican. But that doesn’t explain everything.”The margins on the other judicial races were closer,” Kokai added. “Democrats who knew about the race and knew of its importance in shifting the bench were motivated to make that happen. It was a combination, but the ads were likely a tertiary or secondary factor.”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.