Morgan move good for Dems in more ways than one

Image of Supreme Court Associate Justice Mike Morgan from his campaign website.

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North Carolina Supreme Court Associate Justice Mike Morgan’s candidacy for governor, which Woodshed explored in detail here, could have a second cascading effect of good fortune for North Carolina Democrats — beyond the advantage of a competitive primary discussed in the first piece.

Morgan will have to resign his seat to run, likely around Labor Day of this year as judges are prevented from holding office and running for non-judicial offices. Should Morgan make the jump as expected, Gov. Cooper will select a replacement to finish the term which runs through next year.  

Democrats can only hope, former NC Supreme Court Justice Cherie Beasley will answer the call. Cooper would be wise to ask Beasley to resume her role on the court and run for an additional eight-year term in 2024. 

She lost an extremely close election by 401 votes to Paul Newby for chief justice in 2020. 

She lost her U.S. Senate bid in 2022 to Republican Ted Budd by 3.2% in a solid GOP year. Beasley’s bid was abandoned by many of the Democrat funders in Washington, who felt Democrat opportunities were better in Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania and other states. 

Democrats made a wise move in the end, as Ted Budd proved to be a stronger Republican candidate than those in other closely divided states. However, that was no reflection on Beasley. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee focused first on protecting its current members and seats instead.  

While Republicans were slightly favored in several competitive races that would determine control of the Senate, a red-wave election did not materialize. Democrats gained one seat, in Pennsylvania, where Democrat John Fetterman won the election to succeed retiring Republican Pat Toomey. All incumbents won re-election and all other open seats besides Pennsylvania were held by the same party as the retiring senator. It was the first time ever since the ratification of the 17th amendment that no incumbent lost in a primary or general election. 

However, the smart move for Democrats was unwelcome news for Beasley. Outside groups spent heavily to support Budd over Beasley by a 3-to-1 margin.  

Beasley’s last two efforts have not been flawless, nor have they been error prone. 

Having run statewide over the last two cycles, Beasley would have incredibly high name recognition for a judicial candidate. In a party being driven by African Americans and women, North Carolina Democrats could mostly nominate white men for the top of the ticket in 2024. Beasley would not only be a formidable candidate, but she would also bring important diversity to the Democratic slate of high profile candidates. 

Democrats face a long road back to regain the critical majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court. The first step is retaining the Morgan seat, in 2024, one of two seats on the seven-member court that Democrats currently occupy.  

Republican Court of Appeals Judge Jefferson Griffin is already mounting a strong campaign for the Morgan seat. 

Judge Griffin was appointed by Gov. McCrory to be a district court judge in Wake County and was elected to a four-year term in 2016. Judge Griffin was elected in November 2020 to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. 

He serves as a captain and JAG officer in the North Carolina Army National Guard. Judge Griffin deployed to the Middle East from 2019 to 2020. 

In North Carolina’s recent partisan judicial elections, candidates have performed similarly to the candidate of their party at the top of the ticket, normally within a point or two. 

In her 2020 razor close loss, Beasley out preformed Joe Biden by more than a point and won 11,258 more votes than Biden. 

Does she want to return to the court? Is she up for a third consecutive statewide race? Democrats should ask pretty please.

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