There will be two separate ballot listings — not one — this November for two vacancies for Buncombe County District 28 Superior Court judgeships. A controversy over the ballot format was decided this afternoon by the State Board of Elections, which met in Asheville.
At issue was the method for filling a second vacancy, created when Judge Dennis Winner retired in June. Only one position had been a stake at the time of the May primary election, from which two winning candidates emerged: Kate Dreher, assistant district attorney, and Judge Alan Thornburg (currently serving by appointment).
With a second judgeship now also at stake, Dreher had petitioned the SBOE to create one pool of five candidates, combining the three who subsequently filed for the Winner vacancy—Diane K. McDonald, Heather Whitaker Goldstein and Judge Marvin Pope (current district court judge) — with those of Dreher and Thornburg, for a five-way race to fill the two open seats.
Following the board’s decision, Dreher told the Xpress that she did not plan to appeal. “I think my personal and campaign resources” would be better spent on informing voters about the issues, she said. “I will go forward with my campaign.”
Dreher and her attorney, Adam Mitchell of Raleigh, had argued that the N.C. election law called for combining the candidates for Superior Court under one ballot selection that would produce two winners. Candidate McDonald, representing herself, disagreed with Dreher’s interpretation of the statutory intent for filling the second vacancy. She was followed by (retired N.C. Supreme Court) Justice Robert Orr of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law, representing candidate Pope. Orr also opposed a single-ballot listing, and added that changing the planned election method at the end of August was “untenable and violative of legislative intent.” Goldstein’s attorney, Larry McDevitt, took a similar position in opposition. Candidate Thornburg did not offer comment on the issue.
Following the arguments, the board quickly moved and voted unanimously to “continue with the election process already commenced” regarding the Thornburg versus Dreher race, and to conduct the election for the Winner vacancy as a separate ballot item between the three candidates who filed for that seat.