Incumbent Ann Marie Calabria first announced that she would not seek re-election, but then reversed course and filed to run for another term. Judge Calabria had intended to run for re-election until her mother’s health declined. Then, her mother's health improved before the deadline to file as a candidate. Other candidates who filed for the seat included state District Court Judge Jane P. Gray of Wake County and Superior Court Judge Mark E. Klass of Davidson County. Because more than two candidates filed for the seat, a primary election was held on May 4 to eliminate one candidate. Calabria won the primary with 37 percent, while Gray came in second with 36 percent of the vote. Klass, who took 26 percent, was eliminated. Calabria and Gray faced off in the general election.
Incumbent Rick Elmore filed to run for re-election. Attorney Leto Copeley of Orange County, law clerk and 2005 law school graduate Steven Walker, and attorney Alton D. (Al) Bain also filed. Because more than two candidates filed for the seat, a primary election was held on May 4. Walker was the highest vote getter in the primary with 38 percent, followed by Elmore with 28 percent. Copeley, with 18 percent, and Bain, with 14 percent, were eliminated from the race. Walker and Elmore faced off in the general election.
When longtime Court of Appeals Judge James A. Wynn, Jr. was appointed and confirmed as a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, that triggered a special election for his seat. Under state law, because the vacancy in Wynn's seat occurred after the state's primary elections, the election employed instant runoff voting—the first time such a mechanism had been used in a statewide election in North Carolina. The law that allowed for instant runoff voting for judicial elections was eventually repealed in 2013.
Governor Perdue appointed Cressie Thigpen to fill the seat through the election. Thigpen then filed to run for the full eight-year term, as did twelve other candidates, including attorneys Chris Dillon, Anne Middleton, John Sullivan and Pamela Vesper, all of Raleigh; attorney J. Wesley Casteen of Wilmington; attorney Daniel Garner of Wake Forest; attorneys John Bloss, Jewel Ann Farlow (a 2008 candidate) and Stan Hammer, all of Greensboro; Superior Court Judge Mark E. Klass (who had previously run for the Calabria seat); former Court of Appeals Judge Douglas McCullough; and former North Carolina Commissioner of Labor Harry Payne.
Cressie Thigpen and Doug McCullough collected the most first-choice votes, while no candidate received fifty percent plus one vote. Therefore, the two advanced to the instant runoff, where second and third choices would be tallied to determine the winner. The State Board of Elections announced on Nov. 3 that it would be "at least a month" before the results would be known. Unofficial results were released in December, showing McCullough winning by about 6,000 votes. Thigpen called for a recount. The recount showed a slightly changed vote total, but the ultimate result was the same, and Thigpen conceded defeat.