NC Democrats say they’re the party of principles. Why are they quiet about gaming an election?

For years, Democrats have complained about the party that runs things in North Carolina. Republicans, they say, have abused the authority voters have given them. They’ve passed bills in the dead of night without proper notice to understand what’s in them. They’ve accumulated power in most every way possible, and when the rules don’t support those power grabs, they attempt to change the rules.

It’s the wrong way to represent the people of our state, Democrats say. And they’re right. Since Republicans took power in the General Assembly in 2010, they’ve been a national laughingstock — a model of how not to govern.

But this month, Democrats have had an opportunity to stand behind the principles they trumpet. Instead, they’ve looked a lot like the lawmakers they’ve scorned.

That opportunity involves Chris Anglin, a Raleigh attorney who is a candidate for the N.C. Supreme Court. Until June 7, Anglin was a registered Democrat, but when he filed to be a candidate at the last moment this month, he did so as a Republican. That gave voters two Republicans to consider on the November ballot, a dynamic that likely would help the Democratic candidate, Anita Earls.

What Anglin did was legal. It also was something that Republicans left themselves open to when they passed laws eliminating judicial primary elections and allowing candidates to declare party affiliation right before filing. But legal or not, what Anglin did was wrong. He has deliberately tried to trick voters, claiming even now that he’s a “constitutional Republican.” Regardless of whether you think the Republicans had it coming, he’s trying to game an election.

It’s exactly the kind of thing Democrats would have howled about if Anglin were actually a Republican. But the party and its leaders — including Gov. Roy Cooper — have been disappointingly silent about Anglin’s stunt. They did, however, spend a lot of time last week at their keyboards lamenting how Republicans are trying to fool voters with language surrounding six constitutional amendments.

Democrats are right about those amendments. They’re also right about those Republicans, who this week stymied Anglin in the worst way — by changing the rules in the middle of the race and removing from the ballot the party affiliation of anyone (read: Anglin) who switches parties at the last minute. It was a characteristically heavy-handed move from a party that has consistently tried to shape elections — judicial and otherwise — in its favor.

The new law leaves Anglin without a “D” or “R” next to his name on November’s ballot. That, too, could confuse voters who don’t know the story of how we got here. For the sake of those voters, Anglin should pull out of the race and get his name off the ballot. He shouldn’t have been on there to start — at least not as a Republican.

We wish Democrats had said so, too. Have N.C. Republicans done worse, even in the past week? Yes. But if you want to persuade voters that you’d handle power better than the party that has it, you should act like it now.