N.C. Supreme Court candidate travels state to gain voter recognition

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
Robert H. “Bob” Edmunds admitted there’s a part of him that’s embarrassed to travel the state tooting his own horn.
“Oh, gosh,” he said. “My parents would slap me silly.”
But serving as something of a self-promoter, Edmunds said Friday morning during a visit to Salisbury, is a necessity as he seeks re-election to the N.C. Supreme Court.
Edmunds, the incumbent, is being challenged by Wake Forest law professor Suzanne Reynolds. The race is nonpartisan.
Polls have indicated that voter recognition with either of the candidates is slim, leaving both with little choice but to travel the state trying to get out word of their merits.
Edmunds and Reynolds each have only about $250,000 in public campaign financing funds with which to work. Voters who think that’s a considerable amount might want to consider it wouldn’t cover a single mailing to all the state’s voters.
Earlier Supreme Court elections were partisan. The shift to nonpartisan was done in hopes of shifting the court away from partisan politics and special-interest influence.
But without candidates tied to a particular party, voters are often at a loss as to who to vote for in elections that don’t receive much publicity. Thus Edmunds and Reynolds ó who spoke Thursday night to Rowan County Democrats ó and their statewide campaigning.
“I tell people, service on the state’s highest court is not an entry-level job,” Edmunds said, noting that Reynolds has practiced civil litigation in Greensboro, but admits to having spent most of her career teaching at Wake Forest where she also earned her law degree.
“It’s a job you learn and it takes time to learn it,” Edmunds continued. “People who know my work are pretty much universally supporting me.”
He said 89 of the state’s 100 sheriffs ó Rowan County’s George Wilhem and Davie County’s Andy Stokes, included ó support him in his bid for re-election.
Other endorsements have come from the likes of former Chief Justice Jim Exum who said of Edmunds, “His years of experience on the Supreme Court and, before that, on the Court of Appeals, have made him an effective associate justice and a valuable member of the Court.”
Edmunds’ experience includes work in Guilford County as an assistant district attorney, then an assistant U.S. attorney. He was U.S. attorney for the district from 1986 to 1992, then practiced law privately until his election to the N.C. Court of Appeals in 1998. Two years later, he was elected to an eight-year term on the N.C. Supreme Court.
Edmunds said if he’s not re-elected, the Court will lose its only justice with prosecution, defense and appeals experience at both the state and federal levels.
Edmunds said that during his first term on the Court, his work has included everything from capital cases to two pending cases: the legality of the lottery and whether parents have a say in their children attending year-round school.
The Court has also been asked to weigh in on certificate of needs cases involving the location of hospitals as well as property rights cases.
“That’s one of those times where we earn our salaries,” Edmunds said of decisions on those latter cases.
Edmunds said his quality of work has been recognized in his appointment as the only state court judge in the country on the Federal Criminal Rules Committee. He is also a member of the American Bar Association Ethics Committee.
“People tell me I’m doing a good job,” Edmunds said. “I just hope voters will agree on Election Day.”