Under the Dome

Poll shows NC voters want to retain campaign finance law for statewide judges

A new poll shows a majority of North Carolina voters favor the state's current system of publicly financing the campaigns of candidates for state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

The survey, finding 68 percent favor the program and 23 percent oppose, comes amid warnings that last year's multi-million-dollar campaign for Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby's seat threatens to remake the campaign financing landscape. Newby won re-election over appellate Judge Sam Ervin IV, with a huge infusion of outside money.

Statewide judicial candidates can accept public financing if they agree to spending limits and refuse political action committee and special interest money. But with the emergence of "super PACs," which collect and spend money independent of candidates, those limits are meaningless.

State legislators are also considering a bill to end the financing program, which also makes the races supposedly nonpartisan.

Funding for the public financing comes from a $3 check-off option on state income tax forms, and through an attorneys' surcharge.

"North Carolina's innovate public financing program has been a proven success in reducing special interest influence and protecting the integrity of our courts," said Brent Lourenz, executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education, which commission the poll.

Somewhere around $3 million was raised on behalf of Newby and Ervin, although the vast majority of it was for Newby.

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