Opinion: The Woodshed

Democrat state Supreme Court Justice Ervin in serious re-election trouble

N.C. Supreme Court Justice Sam "Jimmy" Ervin IV, left, asks a question as Justices Anita Earls and Tamara Barringer listen. (Image from YouTube)
N.C. Supreme Court Justice Sam "Jimmy" Ervin IV, left, asks a question as Justices Anita Earls and Tamara Barringer listen. (Image from YouTube)
New polling focused on next year’s N.C. Supreme Court races combined with a historically bad political environment for Democrats indicate dwindling prospects for Democrats to hold on to a fragile 4-3 court majority.

The horrific numbers indicate Justice Sam “Jimmy” Ervin IV would be crushed for re-election by double digits, despite being an incumbent and sharing a name with his famous grandfather, the late U.S. Sen. Sam Ervin.  The likely lopsided loss for Ervin, combined with the controversial efforts of Supreme Court Democrats to nullify two popular constitutional amendments while forcing two GOP justices off a case for the first time in N.C. history, could forever negatively define Ervin’s legacy.

As reported by Carolina Journal, the poll commissioned by Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina also focused on the strong support of voters for statewide school choice programs, showing that nearly two-thirds of likely general election voters in North Carolina support the Opportunity Scholarship Program.

The poll conducted Nov. 6-8 by Ray Martin and Jim Blaine of the Republican political firm The Differentiators showed Ervin getting crushed in his re-election bid by 12%.

In a potential match-up with announced Republican Supreme Court candidate Trey Allen, the challenger leads Ervin, 51-39%.

As filing begins, Ervin has some soul searching to do. No Democrat running for the bench statewide can overcome this kind of environment, no matter how much money they raise, no matter how good of a candidate they are, no matter how famous and well-respected their grandfather was during the Watergate hearings.

Ervin announced earlier this year that he would running for a second eight-year term on the Supreme Court. Since that time, Democrats on the state Supreme Court have become mired in controversy over the proposed forced removal of Republicans. Carolina Journal has documented the problems at ExtremeInjustice.com. Ervin’s political fortunes have dropped like a rock, just like other Democrats that have a Biden anvil around their neck.

With 11 months until the 2022 elections, it is nearly impossible to envision a path to re-election for Ervin. Anything is technically possible, but he would have to reverse a double-digit deficit that affects not only him but all Democrats.

Faced with these nearly impossible odds, does Ervin really want to risk his legacy by facing such a sweeping repudiation at the ballot box? Does he want his family name tarnished by being connected to these efforts to remove fellow justices from the opposite political party?

While Carolina Journal has no information to indicate that Ervin is considering changing course and retiring from the bench rather than filing for re-election, it is hard to see how that has not crossed his mind and the minds of his supporters. A double-digit loss as well as the stink from the removal controversy could limit Ervin’s potentially lucrative earning potential in the private sector.

The poll is equally as bad for Democrat Court of Appeals Judge Lucy Inman, who trails Republican Appeals Court Judge Richard Dietz by a similar number, 50-39%.

With Democrat Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson announcing her long-expected retirement, Inman and Dietz have formally announced they will run for Hudson’s seat.

“After more than a decade as a judge, first, on the Superior Court and for the past seven years on the Court of Appeals, I want to continue serving our state and to make sure reason, honesty, and the rule of law prevail over political agendas,” Inman said on social media.

“I’m thrilled we have a double-digit lead over Lucy Inman in this poll, but we aren’t taking anything for granted,” Dietz said. “I am focused on bringing my message of leadership, and my commitment to fairness and justice, to the people ofNorth Carolina.”

Statewide partisan judicial races are always closely tied to the performance of the two major political parties.

In 2020, a year in which Republican Donald Trump won North Carolina by 1.5%, Republicans swept all three state Supreme Court races and all five races on the state Court of Appeals.

The generic Supreme Court ballot test was also more than 12% positive for Republicans, with 51% of respondents favoring a Republican for state Supreme Court and only 39% favoring a Democrat.

The Democrats’ perilous Supreme Court situation is directly related to President Biden’s abysmal ratings in North Carolina. PEFNC polling shows Biden with a disapproval rate of 57%, with only 41% of voters having a favorable opinion of Biden.

The latest Civitas Poll from the John Locke Foundation also showed Biden so “underwater” with his current ratings he is almost drowning, with only 39% of respondents approving of Biden’s job performance.