Opinion: The Woodshed

Two Republicans file to unseat Democrat Supreme Court Justice Ervin

Despite polling showing him down double digits, combined with a historically bad political environment for Democrats, incumbent Supreme Court Justice Sam “Jimmy” Ervin IV filed for re-election on Monday — the first day of candidate filing.

Democrat Lucy Inman and Republican Richard Dietz filed to run for the Supreme Court seat now held by Democrat Robin Hudson, who is not running for re-election. Inman and Dietz are both residents of Raleigh who now sit on the state Appeals Court.

Ervin, who will appear on the ballot as Sam J. Ervin IV, is a Morganton Democrat. Two Republicans hope to challenge him: April Wood of Lexington and Trey Allen of Hillsborough. Wood is a member of the state Appeals Court.

As reported by Carolina Journal, a 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 matchup with Allen, the challenger leads Ervin, 51-39%.

Democrats on the state Supreme Court have become mired in controversy over the proposed forced removal of Republicans in a high-profile case involving voter ID. 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.

The poll is equally as bad for Inman, who trails Dietz, 50-39%.

“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 of North 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.

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

Republicans face a difficult choice in the primary to decide who will challenge Ervin.

Allen is the current general counsel for the N.C. Administration of Courts. He is a close ally of Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby, for whom he clerked.  Allen began his legal career as a judge advocate in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“I believe that judges must stay true to the Constitution, decide cases based on the facts and the law, not their political views; and ensure equal justice under the law for all North Carolinians,” wrote Allen in announcing his candidacy.

After filing, Wood wrote: “Prior to being elected to serve on the N.C. Court of Appeals, I was a District Court judge for over 18 years. During my career, I came to realize the importance of having judges on the appellate bench with direct, hands-on trial court judicial experience, which is why I became a Court of Appeals Judge. Because trial court judicial experience is lacking on the highest court, I am seeking to take my extensive judicial experience and conservative principles to the North Carolina Supreme Court where I can better serve all of the citizens of this state.”

Wood was elected in 2020 to an eight-year term on the Court of Appeals. Should she be elected to the Supreme Court, Democrat Gov. Roy Cooper will appoint replacement to serve on the Court of Appeals until 2024, when voters would elect a new Judge to serve an new 8 year term.