Judicial candidate vows to defeat opponent appointed to bench
By Lindell John Kay
Saturday, April 23, 2016
A local lawyer is crying foul over the gubernatorial appointment of his rival for a vacant judge's seat just months away from the election.
Beth Freshwater-Smith was appointed Friday by Gov. Pat McCrory to a District Court seat in the 7th District, which includes Nash, Edgecombe and Wilson counties. She faces Lamont Wiggins in November's election.
Wiggins said November's race will change who sits on the bench.
“Voters in the primary designated me as the highest vote getter,” Wiggins said. “I will be the next elected judge in the 7th District.”
Freshwater-Smith said she was honored by the appointment.
"I am humbled and eager to get started and look forward to serving the people of the Seventh District in this capacity," she said.
Freshwater-Smith is a Republican; Wiggins is a Democrat. Judicial races are nonpartisan.
The appointment by a Republican governor comes less than two weeks after reports in the Telegram showed Wiggins led Freshwater-Smith in March's primary even though Freshwater-Smith spent 10 times more than Wiggins, equating to 60 cents per vote to Wiggins’ six cents for each ballot cast.
Wiggins won 34.78 percent of the total vote; Freshwater-Smith won 32.02 percent. Two other opponents who were eliminated in the primary accounted for the remainder of the votes, according to final election results provided by the N.C. State Board of Elections.
Leading up to the primary, Wiggins spent $3,248.68 and Freshwater-Smith spent $29,794.43. Wiggins had $2,417 and Freshwater-Smith had $5,566.43 left in their war chests as of March 15, according to first-quarter 2016 campaign finance reports filed with the N.C. State Board of Elections.
Freshwater-Smith is the senior assistant district attorney for the 7th District, where she has worked as a prosecutor since 1987. She also served as a lead prosecutor in Nash County and has prosecuted felony cases, including capital murder, in N.C. Superior Court in Wilson, Nash and Edgecombe counties.
Wiggins practices law in Rocky Mount and is a city councilman and mayor pro tem.
The vacancy was created by the resignation of Judge William G. Stewart. Freshwater-Smith will serve the remainder of Stewart’s term, which runs through Dec. 31.