North Carolina has a non-partisan electoral system for all levels of judges. Prior to 1996, judicial elections were partisan. Appellate level judgeships - Court of Appeals and Supreme Court - were the last to go non-partisan making the transition in 2002.
Given that, how can you figure out who is conservative and who is liberal? Or who is pro-gun and who is anti-gun. We recently saw what a difference it can make when Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens blatantly ignored the black letter law and allowed Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler (R-NC) to ban guns at the NC State Fair.
The State Board of Elections does put out a Judicial Voter Guide which includes a short statement from each candidate, gives their education and work history, and provides a link, if any, to their websites. To be frank, it is of little use other than to tell you some of their work history and educational background.
Fortunately, the candidates' websites tend to be of more value. For example, Judge Bill Southern, who is running for the NC Court of Appeals against Judge Lucy Inman, tells you he is a member of the NRA and is part of the conservative/libertarian John Locke Foundation's candidate development program. By contrast, Supreme Court Associate Justice Robin Hudson touts her endorsements from the Durham People's Alliance, NC chapter of NOW, and the NC AFL-CIO. You can be pretty much assured that she is not a conservative.
The North Carolina Republican Party has issued their endorsements at the state level as has the Grass Roots North Carolina Political Victory Fund. With the exception of the "Martin seat", they agree. The North Carolina Democratic Party also made endorsements which are 180 deg. from those below.
From the GOP:
Supreme Court Chief JusticePerhaps more important to gun owners is this list of endorsements from the GRNC PVF:
Judge Mark Martin
Supreme Court Justice (Martin seat)
Judge Bob Hunter
Supreme Court Justice (Hudson seat)
Judge Eric Levinson
Supreme Court Justice (Beasley seat)
Court of Appeals (Hunter seat)
Judge Bill Southern
Court of Appeals (Martin seat)
Judge John Tyson
Court of Appeals (Stroud seat)
Judge Donna Stroud (unopposed)
Court of Appeals (Davis seat)
Judge Paul Holcombe
GRNC-PVF Judicial Candidate Recommendations:What is called the "Martin seat" is to fill the vacancy left open when Chief Judge John Martin retired. There are, believe it or not, 19 candidates for that open seat. In addition to the two people endorsed for this seat by the GOP and GRNC-PVF, Elizabeth Davenport Scott and Valerie Johnson Zachary are also worth a look. Both are Republicans. Zachary has been endorsed by Conservatives of Guilford County and touts herself a conservative. What makes her somewhat unusual is that she has a law degree from Harvard and practices in Yadkinville, pop. 2,818.
Supreme Court (Chief Justice): Mark Martin
Supreme Court (Martin seat): Bob Hunter
Supreme Court (Hudson seat): Eric Levinson
Supreme Court (Beasley seat): Mike Robinson
Court of Appeals (Martin seat): Marion Warren
Court of Appeals (Hunter seat): Bill Southern
Court of Appeals (Stroud seat): Donna Stroud
Court of Appeals (Davis seat): Paul Holcombe
I did a blog post earlier this month regarding Judge Mark Davis who is seeking a full term on the Court of Appeals. Unless he is just a hired gun who will say anything to win a case, he is no friend of the Second Amendment. For that reason, Judge Paul Holcombe has my vote.
Early voting started on Thursday, October 23rd. To find out where you can vote early (assuming you are a registered NC voter), go here. The one thing to remember is that voting a straight ticket won't impact these races. You have to vote for each race and each judge.