09/17/08 — Judicial candidates seek voter attention

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Judicial candidates seek voter attention

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on September 17, 2008 1:41 PM

Most of those attending the Grantham Grange political forum Tuesday said they were already familiar with the positions and stances of those running for local and state political offices, so they were most pleased to see a half-dozen state judicial candidates standing in front of the microphone as well.

"It lets you put a name and a face with their positions," George Giddens said.

"Some of the judges I don't know, and now I have a better understanding of who they are. It was very informative," Marjie Dozier added.

And that, each judicial candidate admitted, could make all the difference in races that are statewide, non-partisan and at the bottom of the ballot.

"That means a lot of people won't even vote for the judges," said Suzanne Reynolds, a law professor at Wake Forest University School of Law and candidate for state Supreme Court. "In a presidential election, as a judicial candidate, you have to fight for recognition.

That's why on a rainy evening they made the trip to the small community of Grantham.

"Every vote counts," said Kristin Ruth, a Wake County District Court judge running for the N.C. Court of Appeals.

"You look for the places you can get the biggest bang for the buck, and this is an important county and this forum reaches a lot of people, so I put it at the top of my list," said Bob Edmunds, incumbent candidate for the N.C. Supreme Court.

He further explained that because the judicial candidates have to rely on public financing to run their campaigns -- approximately $200,000 to $250,000 -- it makes it hard to extend their reach across the state. Even mailings, he said, are too expensive to do.

"This type of retail, one-on-one politics really matters," he said.

Especially when the jobs they do are ones that while somewhat obscure, have long-reaching impacts.

"We touch on so many different aspects of your life," Edmunds said, from taxes to education to property rights to the lottery to the death penalty. "The one thing I hope you'll do in this election is to really compare the candidates."

And so hearing a little something from them was helpful, said Grange member Ed Stevens.

"That was the biggest thing I wanted to hear," he said. "At least now I have a face to put with the name. I always have trouble with the judges because I don't know anything about them most of the time."