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State Supreme Court Race Generates Unusual Rhetoric

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RALEIGH, N.C. — They affect the laws for the entire state. It's the longest term to which anyone is elected in North Carolina, eight years. This year, the majority of the State Supreme Court, four of the seven seats, is up for grabs.

Usually, these races don't attract headlines, but this year, there is an exception.

One race is getting a lot of attention for its unusual rhetoric. In a past election, Democrat Rachel Lea Hunter attempted to get on the ballot as "Madame Justice;" the state denied her request. But as Election Day approaches, the fireworks continue.

Justices are supposed to be impartial and run on non-partisan tickets. However, Hunter is going head-to-head with Republican incumbent Justice Mark Martin on everything, including politics. On her Web site, she calls the GOP the Mafia and compares its members to a beast.

"I devised the term 'the beast.' It is made of extremely wealthy and powerful people who make the machinery of government home," said Hunter.

"It's just a highly unusual election, and frankly I hope it doesn't repeat itself," said Martin.

Hunter has practiced as an attorney here and in Pennsylvania, but has never been a judge. Still, she says her experience in front of the bench qualifies her for the job. Martin has been on the bench in North Carolina for 14 years.

In an unprecedented showing of bipartisan support, five former chief justices, 26 former State Bar presidents and both political parties have endorsed Martin.

"The chairs of both major political parties have issued public praise for my performance on the Supreme Court and urged voters not to cast a ballot for the challenger," said Martin.

Hunter says she doesn't ask for or worry about endorsements. She jokes tongue-in-cheek on her Web site that a divine endorsement may be in the works.

"I said what's next, it's going to come out that God and Jesus endorsed me," said Hunter.

In the end, voters will make their own endorsements at the polls.

"I find a lot of fulfillment in what I do, and I hope I help make our community and state a better place," said Martin.

"Justice Martin has had the chance to stand up for people's rights and he has not done so," said Hunter.

Because Supreme Court Justices are elected in statewide races, they must cover a lot of ground during campaign season -- and it's not cheap.

Hunter says she has made 78 appearances in the past two months alone and has spent tens of thousands of dollars of her own money because she has decided not to accept donations.