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Politics

Judge Bell Wins, Three Others Ousted

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http://66.225.205.104/JR20101103a.mp3

Three Mecklenburg County district court judges lost their seats on the bench last night, but Chief District Court Judge Lisa Bell sailed to an easy victory. Judge Bell's race was easily the highest profile of the Mecklenburg County judicial contests because a group of family court litigants had targeted her for ouster. Instead, Bell got nearly 70 percent of the vote against her opponent Twyla Hollingsworth. Bell thinks voters were turned off by the attacks. "The message was not only a vote for me but it was a vote for integrity for the courts and the system by which judges are selected," says Bell. "I hope (it sends) a very strong message to individuals about trying to engage in such negative campaigning in the future." Bell's critics say they have no intention of backing away from their efforts to oust judges who rule against them in family court. Natalie Bingham heads a coalition of family court litigants called North Carolina Court Watch that spent many hours at polling sites campaigning against Bell. Bingham now believes Bell - who is white - won because she drew the African American vote away from her opponent, who is black. "(Bell) really had people believing that she was an African American," says Bingham. "I had people walking up in line (at polling places) and telling me they thought this judge was African American based on the ads she was running on the black radio station." While Bell won re-election easily, other Mecklenburg County district court judges didn't fare as well. Judges Tyyawdi Hands, Jena Culler and Tim Smith all lost to local attorneys Sean Smith, Donald Cureton and Matt Osman. Voters also elected District Court Judges Bill Constangy and Hugh Lewis to the Superior Court bench.