In a bold move, 14 current NC Court of Appeals judges – Republicans and Democrats – have sent a joint letter to General Assembly leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory declaring their firm support for the judicial public financing program. In the letter, the judges note that the public financing system “helps restore public confidence in judicial independence and impartiality” by reducing the influence of special interests in judicial elections. They should know . . . they’re the ones running in these races.
This letter comes the same week that the Republican-leaning Tarrance Group released a poll showing strong support for the program’s benefits, especially among Republican women. Two weeks ago, two West Virginia Republicans spoke to NC legislators about the dangers of cutting public financing for judicial races and lauded North Carolina’s program as a model for the one West Virginia approved in April.
Even with this broad support from Republicans, judicial public financing in NC is on thin ice. The Governor’s and state Senate’s budgets cut this proven and popular program. State Budget Director Art Pope and Senate leader Phil Berger have never liked public financing. The House has yet to pass its budget, so Speaker Tillis and House leaders have a real opportunity to demonstrate their stated commitment to integrity and fairness in elections. These judges just made that easier – we’ll see how the gavel falls.