In court race, party still matters to voters

In their race for a seat on the N.C. Supreme Court, Bob Edmunds and Suzanne Reynolds talk primarily about their experience and credentials.

But the outcome of the race could determine whether Republicans or Democrats have a majority on the state's top court.

And that could have ramifications, for example, when state lawmakers begin redrawing legislative and congressional districts. In the last redistricting, a court with a majority of Republicans voted along party lines to shoot down a plan drawn up by the Democrats who control the legislature.

Officially, the races are nonpartisan and publicly financed. The intent is to help North Carolinians elect impartial judges.

But the reality is that many voters still pay attention to party affiliation. That makes it hard for party officials, and the candidates themselves, to resist making that distinction.

Edmunds, a Greensboro Republican, and Reynolds, a Winston-Salem Democrat, are downplaying the significance of their political affiliations. They have signed pledges with the N.C. Bar Association requiring them to avoid talking about issues such as abortion or the death penalty, discussing cases pending before the court or leveling partisan attacks at each other.