In a disappointing late campaign note, incumbent North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley formally conceded to Associate Justice Paul Newby last week. Newby will take over the state court system in January.
The Beasley-Newby contest became the closest statewide election in modern North Carolina history, ultimately decided by a margin of fewer than 500 votes out of almost 5.4 million cast. After a complete statewide machine recount, followed by a manual recount of a randomly selected 3% of the precincts in each county, the net difference shifted by only a few votes and in favor of Newby.
Environmental advocates and other pro-democracy organizations noted Chief Justice Beasley’s role in leading the state Supreme Court to decisive rulings against unconstitutional voter suppression measures and extreme partisan gerrymandering. There is broad concern that the new Chief Justice’s partisanship and judicial philosophy will push the court toward greater deference to the state legislature’s agenda of voter suppression, gerrymandering, and favoring polluters’ economic interests over the protection of injured neighbors and public health.