Hudson survives ad blitz, will compete to keep Supreme Court seat

Posted May 6, 2014

This is a still image from Justice Robin Hudson's response ad.

— State Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson has survived a primary in which she faced a barrage of negative advertising that could have blocked her from competing to keep her seat this fall. 

Unofficial returns show that Hudson was the top vote-getter in the three-way nonpartisan field. She will face Superior Court Judge Eric Levinson, who placed second in primary voting, in the general election. 

Jeanette Doran, a lawyer who currently works for the state Division of Employment Security, placed third and was eliminated from the race. 

"Our courts need to be selected by our voters, not bought by out-of-state, big-money interests," a relieved Hudson said Tuesday night. 

Candidates and outside interest groups poured at least $1.5 million into the Supreme Court primary alone, which is highly unusual for a race that merely narrows down the number of contestants who will face off in the fall. Of that total, at least $1.1 million came from groups hoping to block Hudson from reaching the general election by pushing Doran and Levinson to victory.

State Supreme Court races are nominally nonpartisan, although the party affiliations of the candidates are well known. Often, political parties will line up behind certain candidates. This year, North Carolina Republicans asked their voters to choose Doran and Levinson over Hudson, a Democrat. 

Much of the money spent fighting Hudson's re-election came through Republican channels. 

The ad which put the race on the national map was aired by Justice for All NC, a group whose board members include tea party activists. It suggested Hudson is sympathetic to child molesters. The ad has been roundly decried as inaccurate by both former Supreme Court Justices and even some political conservatives, but neither Hudson nor her allies had the resources to answer back in kind. 

Campaign finance reports show that $900,000 of the money Justice for All NC used to air that ad came from the Republican State Leadership Committee, a Washington, D.C.-based group that is funded largely by business interests, including Koch Industries, Time Warner Cable, SAS Institute and Reynolds American. 

Hudson has served on the court for eight years and is a former member of the state Court of Appeals. Levinson is a former Court of Appeals judge who has served overseas as a justice attache to Iraq for the U.S. Department of Justice. Doran is the former director of the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law, a group linked to conservative causes that has brought lawsuits to derail legislation that oversteps lawmakers' constitutional authority.

Doran threw her support behind Levinson Tuesday night.

"Our combined vote total tonight shows the strong desire of North Carolina voters for a conservative judge that is tough but fair," she said. "I offer him my full and unqualified endorsement and will be working hard for him this fall to help him secure a seat on the North Carolina Supreme Court."

Neither Doran nor Levinson disavowed the Justice for All NC ads. Both said instead that they were running their own campaigns. 

On Tuesday night, Hudson said she was bracing for more attack ads this fall. 

"I think we've seen the floodgates open with the outside money, and I don't have any reason to think it's going to stop unless it doesn't work," Hudson said.

She said her victory Tuesday was evidence that voters are growing suspicious of attack ads.

"I'm really grateful to all of my team, and to the voters all over the state who paid attention and voted on the actual facts," she said.


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  • Doug Hanthorn May 7, 2014
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    Uh, no it doesn't.

  • Doug Hanthorn May 7, 2014
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    Wow. SAS just lost any respect I had for them......

  • glarg May 7, 2014

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    See that link that says " poured at least $1.5 million"- it goes to a story that doesnt have "1.5 million" in it at all. Try to find that- it doesnt exists. None of those numbers add to 1.5.

    And further, the the story assumes that all of the moneies are some how involved in this race. Thats a phoney accounting. If SAS gives $15K to the RSLC that could be used for any race, or no race at all. And the same go for the Chamber and Justice for All NC- there is no way for WRAL to know what races these groups plan to spend their money on- the $1.5M is a complete air ball.

    If Justice for All NC spends money in the DA race is this story going to be updated? I doubt it.

  • Neaven Armstrong May 7, 2014
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    All that money used to try to ruin the character of someone!
    Lesson #1: Honesty IS the Best Policy
    Lesson #2: There are things that money CAN’T buy!

  • goldenosprey May 7, 2014

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    On what do you base your accusation 1.5M is a phony number? Every time the right disagrees with math or statistics it labels them "phony."
    Furthermore, Hudson may have raised money off the absurd scare stories of the Koch/TWC backed PAC, but not WRAL's reporting.

    The last paragraph holds no water either, since the opponents of Hudson sought to install a republican on the bench who would be pliant to special interests. The cheapest way to do that was to simply get rid of the one they didn't like, rather than backing a particular horse.

  • Forthe Newssite May 7, 2014
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    And sadly, it appears they are winning in that quest.....but the sheepol have NOT taken note of it......

  • glarg May 7, 2014

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    As usually WRAL is making errors.
    They count money that Justice for NC received on May 2nd as "spending" in the race. Clearly they havent spent that money in the primary. This $1.5M is a phony number in terms of what has been spent.

    Meanwhile Hudson has been raising money off of Binker's scare stories and raised over $300K in the primary. Levinson was behind at $263K.

    The WRAL story line was never credible, since if Justice for NC aimed to knock Hudson out in the primary they would have run ads for Doran and Levinson.

  • Amy Smathers May 7, 2014
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    As far as PAC putting big money into campaigns, this is how Hudson was first elected FYI, and this practice was started by legislation passed by Dems.

  • Amy Smathers May 7, 2014
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    The case in question was State of NC v Kenney Bowditch. Her dissent starts on page 30. Both sides are twisting the truth.
    Read her dissent and make your own decision.

  • Icaretoo May 7, 2014

    I, like several former Supreme Court Justices, was sicken by the misleading ad about siding with child molesters! I am shocked that there are people ignorant enough to believe that ridiculous statement. Supreme Court Justices interpret the law! They address errors at trial! Ignorance at the polls is scary!!