plant with roots
Sep 15, 2017

NCGA Week in Review

This week in NC politics, a House committee looked at the state’s judicial branch, with the committee chairman hoping to redraw judicial districts, and 2017 municipal elections kicked off with partisan primaries in three counties.

House Committee Considering Judicial Redistricting

The House Select Committee on Judicial Redistricting, chaired by Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly), held its inaugural meeting on Tuesday with two presentations on the state’s court system. In April, Rep. Burr introduced HB 717: Revise Judicial Districts, which overhauls the state’s judicial districts, and Judicial redistricting will likely be in the spotlight when legislators return to Raleigh next month.

During their first meeting the committee focused on the history and current structure of the state’s court system. The committee received presentations from James Drennan, a former head of the NC Administrative Office of the Courts (NCAOC) and current professor at the UNC School of Government, and Judge Marion Warren, the current head of the NCAOC.

Professor Drennan’s presentation reviewed the state’s judicial history, focusing on substantial judicial reforms. The last time the state’s judicial system saw serious reform was from 1955 to 1962 when lawmakers passed sweeping reforms to unify the state’s disjointed court system. Additionally, Drennan discussed the selection of judges and different methods used across the country. Currently, judges in NC are selected through partisan elections, while some other states utilize legislative or executive appointment or merit based systems.

Director Warren’s presentation was focused on the role of the NCAOC in overseeing the state’s system of judges, clerks and district attorney offices. The NCAOC provides centralized administrative and operational services for all state courts.

The committee will meet again next Tuesday, September 19 at 1:00 PM.

Municipal Elections Kick-Off with September Primaries

In NC, municipal elections vary based on the charter of each municipality; some municipal officers hold two-year terms, others hold four-year terms. Election methods vary from municipality to municipality, and though most municipalities in the state hold local elections in odd-numbered years, some are held during even-numbered years. State law governs the timing of municipal elections based on election method. This week, partisan primaries were held in three municipalities.

On Tuesday, partisan primaries were held in Charlotte, turnout was around 8%. In the Democratic mayoral primary, Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles secured 46.15% of the vote to upset incumbent Jennifer Roberts, who received 36.21% of the vote, state Senator Joel Ford was a distant third, followed by Lucille Puckett and Constance Partee Johnson. Republican City Councilman Kenny Smith secured 88.63% of the vote in a three-way primary against Gary Dunn and Kimberly Barnette.

Lyles’ victory was surprising to many after underperforming against Roberts in both polls and fundraising leading up to the primary. Lyles is a career public servant and in many ways aligns with Mayor Roberts. During her term, Mayor Roberts faced many controversial issues; she led the city’s efforts to extend legal protections to the LGBT community, which sparked the passage of HB 2, and faced national scrutiny after the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott last September.

As one of two Republicans on the Charlotte City Council, Smith, a commercial real estate broker, has built a strong conservative record and was favored to succeed in his primary throughout his campaign.

During the primary campaign cycle, the Charlotte Observer, endorsed both Lyles and Smith in their respective races, saying the city needs a “steadier hand.”

To read more about the candidates and where they stand on major issues in the Queen City, follow this link.

Several City Council seats also had partisan primaries in Charlotte.

Additionally, a Republican mayoral primary was held in the Town of Murphy, where Rick Ramsey secured 90.41% of the vote over his Republican opponents Jeff Crane and Royse Brown. Ramsey will face Democrat Curtis Brown on November 7, where there is no incumbent in the race. Also, a Democratic primary for the Cleveland County Board of Elections secured four nominees for the partisan board.

On October 10, municipalities that elect officials through a nonpartisan primary and election method, such as Asheville, and municipalities that elect their candidates in a nonpartisan election and runoff method, such as Raleigh, will head to the polls. Municipal elections will wrap up on November 7, when municipalities that use partisan or nonpartisan primary methods hold a general election and runoff elections are held in necessary municipalities.

To view all municipal filings and election dates, follow this link.