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Home / Top Legal News / 19 candidates in appeals court race makes ‘ballot drop-off’ a concern

19 candidates in appeals court race makes ‘ballot drop-off’ a concern

As a candidate running for election in a non-partisan judicial race, it can be difficult to get your name out there — all the more so when there are 18 other names on your ballot to compete with.Election buttons 2014 ad Text

That’s the challenge facing the 19 candidates running for an eight-year term on North Carolina’s Court of Appeals. Because former Chief Judge John Martin retired from his seat after May’s primary election, all 19 candidates will appear on November’s ballot, and the candidate with the most votes—however small their plurality—will win a full term on the bench.

Eleven of the 19 candidates congregated in Greensboro Oct. 3 to speak at the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys’ annual fall seminar. The candidates invested an afternoon for the chance to get just three minutes to make their pitches to the lawyers assembled, after the conference had heard from candidates running for other seats. By the time the candidates took the podium, however, many of those lawyers had already exited for an early start on their Friday night.

“There are worries about ballot drop-off in this race,” said John Tyson, one of the final candidates to speak. “I think we just witnessed it today.”

A few of the candidates were well known to the lawyers in attendance, but some of the other names on the ballot were clearly ciphers. Below, Lawyers Weekly has compiled brief profiles of each of the candidates, using publicly available information.

As the profiles show, there’s a range of diversity in the experience levels of the candidates. Two of the candidates, Tyson and John Arrowood, have previously served on the Court of Appeals. Arrowood was also previously a superior court judge in Mecklenburg County.

Several other candidates have also served as trial court judges. Lori G. Christian is a sitting district court judge and Abe Jones is a former superior court judge, both in Wake County. Marion Warren is a sitting district court judge in the state’s 13th District, which covers Bladen, Brunswick and Columbus counties. Two candidates, J. Brad Donovan and Keischa Lovelace, are currently deputy commissioners for the state’s Industrial Commission.

Conversely, Daniel Donahue, a solo practitioner in Hertford, has been licensed to practice law since 2010 — although he does note on his law firm website that his “interest in criminal law began at 11 years old.”

None of the 19 candidates had any public discipline listed on the state bar’s website.

The unwieldy field—believed to be the largest for a statewide judicial general election in state history—has raised several concerns beyond the challenge for voters to familiarize themselves with 19 different candidates. One concern lawyers have raised is that candidates with similar judicial philosophies might eat into each other’s share of the electorate.

Based on party affiliations alone, neither party would appear to have an obvious advantage on that front. Eight of the candidates are registered Democrats and eight are registered Republicans, while three are unaffiliated. However, voters wishing to vote strategically among members of their preferred party—that is, vote for the acceptable candidate with the highest likelihood of victory—may find themselves flummoxed.

So far, there is no polling of the race, and none is expected. Automated telephone pollsters, who provide an increasing portion of polling results, can’t even try to survey the campaign because they can only include 10 options per race. Candidates will have to wait until the results come in to see whether those efforts to get their name out there have paid off.

Editor’s note: Candidate J. Brad Donovan and NCLW staff writer David Donovan are not related.

Follow David Donovan on Twitter @NCLWDonovan

 

John S. Arrowood

City: Charlotte

Party affiliation: Democrat

Bar member since: 1982

Law school: University of North Carolina

Currently: Attorney for James, McElroy & Diehl

Judicial experience: Former N.C. Court of Appeals judge, Superior Court judge

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

Betsy Bunting

City: Raleigh

Party affiliation: Democrat

Bar member since: 1974

Law school: University of North Carolina

Currently: Retired

Judicial experience: None

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

Lori G. Christian

City: Cary

Party affiliation: Democrat

Bar member since: 1994

Law school: University of North Carolina

Currently: Wake County District Court Judge

Judicial experience: Sitting district court judge

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

Jeffrey M. Cook

City: Raleigh

Party affiliation: Republican

Bar member since: 1998

Law school: North Carolina Central

Currently: Solo practitioner

Judicial experience: None

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

Daniel Patrick Donahue

City: Hertford

Party affiliation: Democrat

Bar member since: 2010

Law school: Charlotte

Currently: Solo practitioner

Judicial experience: None

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

J. Brad Donovan

City: Raleigh

Party affiliation: Unaffiliated

Bar member since: 1989

Law school: North Carolina Central

Currently: Deputy Commissioner with the N.C. Industrial Commission

Judicial experience: None

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

Sabra Jean Faires

City: Cary

Party affiliation: Unaffiliated

Bar member since: 1980

Law school: University of North Carolina

Currently: Attorney for Bailey & Dixon

Judicial experience: None

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

Abe Jones

City: Raleigh

Party affiliation: Democrat

Bar member since: 1977

Law school: Harvard

Currently: Solo practitioner

Judicial experience: Former Superior Court judge

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

Ann Kirby

City: New Bern

Party affiliation: Republican

Bar member since: 1985

Law school: Campbell

Currently: Assistant public defender for District 3A, Pitt County

Judicial experience: None

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

Keischa Lovelace

City: Raleigh

Party affiliation: Democrat

Bar member since: 2002

Law school: University of North Carolina

Currently: Deputy Commissioner with the N.C. Industrial Commission

Judicial experience: None

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

Marty Martin

City: Raleigh

Party affiliation: Democrat

Bar member since: 1977

Law school: Western New England University

Currently: Solo practitioner

Judicial experience: None

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

Hunter Murphy

City: Waynesville

Party affiliation: Republican

Bar member since: 2006

Law school: University of the Pacific

Currently: Solo practitioner

Judicial experience: None

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

Jody Newsome

City: Raleigh

Party affiliation: Unaffiliated

Bar member since: 1998

Law school: Wake Forest

Currently: Attorney for Wallace & Nordan

Judicial experience: None

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

Elizabeth Davenport Scott

City: Raleigh

Party affiliation: Republican

Bar member since: 1986

Law school: University of North Carolina

Currently: Attorney for Williams Mullen

Judicial experience: None

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

Tricia Shields

City: Raleigh

Party affiliation: Democrat

Bar member since: 1985

Law school: University of North Carolina

Currently: Attorney for Hedrick Gardner Kincheloe & Garofalo

Judicial experience: None

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

John M. Tyson

City: Fayetteville

Party affiliation: Republican

Bar member since: 1980

Law school: Campbell

Currently: Adjunct professor of law at Campbell Law School

Judicial experience: Former N.C. Court of Appeals judge

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

Marion Warren

City: Ash

Party affiliation: Republican

Bar member since: 1991

Law school: Campbell

Currently: District Court Judge, 13th Judicial District

Judicial experience: Sitting District Court judge

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

Chuck Winfree

City: Greensboro

Party affiliation: Republican

Bar member since: 1989

Law school: University of North Carolina

Currently: Attorney for Adams & Winfree

Judicial experience: None

Bar discipline: No public discipline

 

 

Valerie Johnson Zachary

City: Yadkinville

Party affiliation: Republican

Bar member since: 1988

Law school: Harvard

Currently: Solo practitioner

Judicial experience: None

Bar discipline: No public discipline

Follow David Donovan on Twitter @NCLWDonovan

One comment

  1. John Tyson has been lying about the endorsements he has received and his experience is out of date. Hunter Murphy or Marion Warren are a better choice for a conservative. Marion Warren has more recent experience and Hunter Murphy has put the most effort into his campaign.

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