Easily mingling amongst the seasoned politicians and their well-wishers, Patricia Timmons-Goodson seemed to know the routine. She greeted supporters at a rally sponsored by the Bladen County Democratic Committee last Thursday at the National Guard Armory, flashing an easy smile and offering firm and friendly handshakes to people walking by.
Pressing the flesh appears to come easily for the associate justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court. But in all honestly, Timmons-Goodson would rather concentrate on being a judge than be in the throes of a political campaign to keep her seat on the state’s highest court.
“I just want to be a judge,” Timmons-Goodson said. “I just want to interpret the law and write thoughtful opinions on cases that come before the court. But it comes with the territory.”
Timmons-Goodson, a Fayetteville resident, became the first black woman to serve on the North Carolina Supreme Court when Gov. Mike Easley appointed her an associate judgeship to replace a retiring judge. State law mandates that appointed Supreme Court justices must run in the first election following their installation. It’s a process that Timmons-Goodson went through back in 1997 when Gov. Jim Hunt appointed her to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
Before that, Timmons-Goodson was elected district court judge four times.
So she didn’t feel out of place in such an overtly political setting last Thursday, speaking at the Democratic rally local party leaders called “A Night For Justice.” About 150 people attended.
“It’s such a politically charged time up in Raleigh right now,” Timmons-Goodson said. “Right now endorsements are coming out, and everyone in Raleigh is excited to see the endorsements and who has who’s support.”
Timmons-Goodson is running against Eric Levinson, who is currently serving an eight-year term on the North Carolina Court of Appeals. As with most elections, races can be swept up in a maelstrom of partisanship.
But Timmons-Goodson said that the races for Supreme Court seats have a slightly different feel. While party affiliation and political leanings may affect who voters choose for the high court, she thinks that judicial candidates should emphasize a solid foundation in the law and a willingness to be open to issues that come before the court.
“The difficult thing is that people try to nail you down on a particular position or opinion,” Timmons-Goodson said. “But to do that before you hear the merits of the case would be doing an injustice to the people you serve. If someone comes into your courtroom knowing where you stand on a particular issue, they won’t feel like they will get a fair trial.”
Timmons-Goodson was just one of the candidates the Bladen County Democratic party was trying to bolster at last Thursday’s rally. County party chairman Wes Johnson said local Democrats are being urged to vote strictly down party lines, which typically happens in Bladen County. Johnson estimates about 80 percent of the county is registered Democrat, and he said there have been 1,034 people who have registered with the party since Nov. 2004.
“I think people understand that the Democratic Party is a party that really tries to help people,” Johnson said. “I think people across the country are starting to see that, and that’s what the national mid-term elections might show.”