RALEIGH – It’s the closest statewide race of 2020, and however it ends up could have a significant impact on the highest state court in North Carolina.
With a total of more than 5.2 million votes cast, Republican Paul Newby leads Democrat Cheri Beasley by just 842 (at the time of writing this) in the race for Chief Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court.
Both candidates are on the N.C. Supreme Court already, Beasley enjoying the distinction of being appointed by Governor Roy Cooper as chief justice upon the retirement of former Chief Justice Mark Martin.
The appointment was, of course, entirely political. Beasley, a black woman, checked all the right boxes for Democrats concerned with identity politics and a progressive agenda. It was also viewed as a slight to Justice Paul Newby, who was the senior associate on the bench.
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Lately, Newby has been all alone on that bench as the high court’s only Republican. That is set to change; the 2020 elections saw a surge of Republican victories on the Supreme Court and the N.C. Court of Appeals. One of those races won by a Republican was for Newby’s seat on the bench.
An originalist with a keen understanding of First Principles and constitutional limitations, Newby decided to run for chief justice in 2020, thereby giving up his associate seat.
He went all in; because he knows how important proper leadership in the judiciary.
While his Republican co-candidates (they pooled resources to campaign as a team of conservative judges) pulled away from their Democrat opponents to wrap up wins by the end of election night, the Newby/Beasley race was tight from the start.
The day after the election, Newby was up around 3,000 votes. However, as the extraordinarily long acceptance period for absentee ballots has crept on, more and more votes for Beasley came in, and Newby’s lead was widdled down to the aforementioned margin.
Today, November 12, is the last day absentee ballots can be accepted, as long as they were postmarked on or before election day, according to the (constitutionally invalid) rule changes enacted by the N.C. State Board of Elections via lawsuit settlement.
We’ll be watching the final results closely. It might not be a high profile race, but it stands to have a high level of impact on politics and separation of powers struggles between the Republican legislature and executive branches in the near term.