Judicial races in North Carolina tend to be quiet, gentlemanly affairs that occur below the radar. Not this year. Not in our neck of the woods. Randolph County attorney Jane Redding is trying to unseat incumbent Judge Rob Wilkins, also of Randolph County, in November. The judicial district includes Moore, Randolph and Montgomery counties.
A super PAC, organized by attorneys supporting Redding, is spending a lot of time and money attacking Judge Wilkins and his record. The blogosphere is also weighing in on the race. Wilkins is buoyed by strong support from Tea Party activists in the area.
I connected with Judge Wilkins the other day. He admitted that his no-nonsense management style in his courtroom has likely ruffled some feathers among the courthouse “good ol’ boy network”:
“I expect people to be on time when they have business in my courtroom. I also expect them to be prepared. I hold people accountable when they fail to meet either of those expectations. It’s apparent that some in the lawyer community don’t like being forced to show up on time and be prepared.”
Judge Wilkins says his modus operandi in the courtroom is based quite a bit on the discipline and traditions instilled in him during his more than two decades of military service. He says his work is also strongly influenced by his belief in literal interpretation of the Constitution:
“I am not in the business of writing law. I’d be in Congress or the General Assembly if I wanted to do that. It’s my job to ensure that both sides get a fair hearing, and that their rights — as guaranteed in the Constitution — are protected.”
Wilkins takes pride in the fact that he shuns a lot of the political wheeling-and-dealing that dominates so much courthouse business. He points out that he has turned down at least a half dozen plea bargain deals made between prosecutors and defense attorneys.
Area politicos familiar with the political landscape in Randolph County tell me it’s pretty clear that Redding is a stalking horse for a group of attorneys frustrated that they have not been able to influence and control Wilkins. They point out to me that Redding has spent a good portion of her life as a registered Democrat. She switched to unaffiliated to run for the school board in Randolph County. My sources tell me that Redding registered as a Republican in 2011 to make her more competitive in her planned challenge to Wilkins.
Judicial races in North Carolina are non-partisan. The judicial district in question is overwhelmingly populated with Republican-leaning voters.