NC Speaker Thom Tillis
Several political research centers give Republicans a 60 percent or better chance of gaining six or more seats to erase a 55-45 voting bloc deficit, and capture the U.S. Senate to go with their House majority. The Hagan-Tillis race, though, is among a dozen to 15 swing contests that pundits figure can go either way. Democrats are in 10 of the 12 most-contested seats, including all six deemed closest. Mitt Romney carried nine of those 12 swing states, despite losing the overall 2012 presidential election to Pres. Obama.
Hagan is getting linked to liberal Obama, allegedly voting his way 96 percent of the time according to pro-Tillis ads. In her ads, she refers to her rating as the “most moderate senator” by the non-partisan National Journal. Planned Parenthood is among groups actively campaigning on abortion and other women’s issues on her behalf.
Ads supporting Tillis rip Hagan for missing Senate Armed Services meetings including one on ISIS terrorism, as she instead was “doing cocktails” at a political fundraiser. Pro-Hagan attack ads characterize State House Speaker Tillis as favoring the wealthy such as with tax cuts, in shaping state policies. Libertarian Sean Newton Haugh, the third candidate, is not expected to pull enough votes to substantially swing the election.
The much more congenial 11th District U.S. House race is between U.S. Rep Mark Meadows and Democrat challenger Tom Hill, a retired physicist in Zirconia.
The GOP already controls both state chambers, the governor’s office and North Carolina Supreme Court. State Sen. Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville, among most powerful Republicans, is challenged by school board member Rick Wood in District 48. State Rep. Chris Whitmire (District 113) faces Black Mountain Elementary principal Norm Bossert, a Democrat. Republican State Rep. Chuck McGrady’s foe in District 117 is Libertarian Shelby Mood, a nurse living in Edneyville.
In Henderson County races, Sheriff Charles McDonald seeks his first general election victory after an impressive primary win. He is 59. He was appointed two and a half years ago.
Challenger Marty Katz, a Democrat, is gaining some bi-partisan endorsements. Katz, 62, is a retired deputy from Broward County, Fla. He said it has the largest accredited sheriff’s office in that nation, with more than 6,200 employees. Katz helped create Florida’s new law enforcement training curriculum. Locally, he taught a SWAT team survival class.
The Henderson County Board of Public Education has three of its seven non-partisan seats up for election. Incumbents running are Lisa Edwards and and Amy Lynn Holt. Challengers are Michael Absher in his fourth try, Colby Coren whom county GOP leaders endorsed, and Sonia Rollins Gironda.
Several in county-wide contests are unopposed, after winning GOP primaries. They include commissioners Mike Edney (District 1) and Tommy Thompson (D-4) and Bill Lapsley in District 3, and Lee King for register of deeds. District Attorney Greg Newman, Superior Court Clerk Kimberly Gasperson-Justice and Soil and Water Conservation District supervisors Drew Brannon and Theron Maybin remain unopposed.
Here Come ‘Da Judges
Local Superior Court Judge Mark Powell is unopposed.
Judicial races as non-partisan contests are harder to gauge, for voters preferring a party affiliation. Pending legal issues include new election laws, congressional and legislative redistricting, school vouchers, various criminal justice matters, abortion clinic restrictions and environmental regulations.
A big clue on candidates’ party affiliation and perspectives is from who each party favors, on campaign slate cards and website listings.
For instance, the Henderson County Democratic Party website recommends reelecting N.C. Supreme Court Justices Cheri Beasley and Robin Hudson to new eight-year terms, and electing onto the state’s highest court Sam J. Ervin IV. Those three are also on N.C. Democrats’ “fair judges” slate.
First-termer Hudson is 62. She maintains she is fair and “independent,” in a state elections board candidates brochure. Beasley, 48, was appointed by former Democrat Gov. Bev Perdue two years ago after serving four years as an appellate judge. She seeks her first elected and full term on the state’s highest bench. She stated she is for “preserving individual liberties, judicial interpretation, and applying the rule of law” with “integrity and fairness.”
Ervin’s grandfather Sam J. Ervin Jr. was the famed Democrat U.S. senator of N.C. and Senate Watergate Committee chairman 40 years ago. Ervin IV, now 58, lost in challenging Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby two years ago. That outcome kept the power of balance as 4-3 in favor of registered Republicans in the non-partisan Supreme Court seats.
Democrat Ervin faces Republican Robert Neal Hunter Jr., 67, an appointed incumbent for two months. Hunter stated in the elections brochure he seeks a “pragmatic approach to solving complex legal problems.” Ervin stated he studies case facts and applies “controlling statutes, constitutional provisions and (precedent-setting) judicial decisions.” They contest for what was Mark Martin’s seat.
Mecklenburg County Superior Court Judge Eric Levinson, 47, a “constitutional conservative,” takes on Hudson again. The primary in May reduced their contest to the top two, with Hudson outdoing Levinson 42.5-36.6 percent and Jeanette Doran eliminated. Levinson was the justice attache to Iraq establishing major crimes courts to prosecute terrorists, and was counsel to Afghanistan’s Supreme Court.
Civil litigator Mike Robinson, 59, of Winston-Salem opposes Beasley. He often represented businesses, in his 33 years as an attorney, and calls for “clear” court decisions. He is endorsed by former Supreme Court Justices I. Beverly Lake and Bob Orr. Robinson, Levinson, Hunter and Chief Justice Mark Dean Martin are endorsed by the N.C. Republican Party as “conservative judges.”
Chief Justice Mark Martin
Martin faces Superior Court Judge Ola Mae Lewis, 49, a black in Brunswick County who lists herself as a Republican. Yet she clerked for Democrat Dan Blue, when he was House speaker. She stated she will “uphold impartiality, and sustain what is right.”
Mark Martin, namesake of the veteran NASCAR driver, hopes to cross the finish line in first in his first run as chief justice. The registered Republican from Apex states he is endorsed by all five former chief justices, who are from both major parties. He stated in the elections brochure he guides the Supreme Court “fairly and impartially.” He wrote more than 400 decisions in five years as an appellate judge.
Martin, 51, has since served for 15 years on the Supreme Court with half of that time as the senior associate justice. Thus, he was next in line when Gov. Pat McCrory appointed him chief justice in August to succeed Sarah Parker who served in that post for eight years. She had to go, due to mandatory retirement at age 72. Appellate Judge Hunter was appointed to fill Martin’s associate justice term on the Supreme Court.
The local Democratic Party on its website sides with Special Superior Court Judge Lucy Inman over District Court Judge Bill Southern of King, for Hunter’s prior N.C. Court of Appeals seat. Inman stated she has bi-partisan support among retired N.C. Supreme Court chief justices. She said a key is treating everyone “fairly.” Southern criticized judicial legislating, when stating a judge should “decide cases based upon what the law is and not what the law should be” in their view.
Superior Court Judge Ola Mae Lewis
Democrats endorsed incumbent Appeals Judge Mark Davis over District Court Judge Paul Holcombe of Clayton. Davis insists “no personal or political agenda should ever enter into a judge’s decision-making.” Holcombe points out Davis was appointed by former Gov. Perdue, and is yet to win an election. Appeals Judge Donna Stroud is unopposed.
A crowded field pits 19 contenders for one appellate seat. They are John Arrowood, Betsy Bunting, Jeffrey M. Cook, Lori G. Christian, Daniel Patrick Donahue, J. Brad Donovan, Sabra Jean Faires, Abe Jones, Ann Kirby, Keischa Lovelace, Marty Martin, Hunter Murphy, Jody Newsome, Tricia Shields, Elizabeth Davenport Scott, John M. Tyson, Chuck Winfree, Marion Warren, and Valerie Johnson Zachary.
Early voting concludes Saturday, Nov. 1. Election day poll hours are 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. For a sample ballot, check www.hendersoncountync.org/elections/generalcandidates2014.pdf.