Local Politics

Half of Wake DA race set for November

Posted May 6
Updated May 7

— Wake County Clerk of Superior Court Lorrin Freeman on Tuesday captured the Democratic nomination to be the county's next district attorney after her opponent conceded the race.

With 70 percent of the precincts reporting, Freeman had 58 percent of the vote, compared with 42 percent for Assistant District Attorney Boz Zellinger, according to unofficial results.

On the Republican side, Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cruden and defense attorney John Bryant were locked in a tight battle – 385 votes separated them – and could be headed for a July runoff.

"I'll have to talk to the folks who helped me get to this point so far and so fast," Bryant said when asked whether he would call for a runoff. "I would like them to have an opportunity to have some input into the decision."

Cruden said he is prepared for a runoff but is looking forward to the general election.

"We're excited. It shows that, if you do things the right way for the right reasons for a long enough period of time, it matters," he said. "If he wants to have a runoff, we're ready to run. ... We've got momentum, and we're going to keep it going."

Colon Willoughby, who served as Wake County's top prosecutor for three decades, resigned in March to go into private practice.

"We are very pleased with tonight's outcome and appreciate the support for our message moving forward with with the integrity and independence that's been a hallmark of the District Attorney's Office under the leadership of Colon Willoughby," Freeman said.

"We're disappointed by tonight's results, but I'm proud of how my team of supporters stood up for what we believed in," Zellinger said.

Last month, Zellinger repudiated direct-mail ads from the State Employees Association of North Carolina that linked Freeman to a scandal in her office in which two former employees were charged with conspiring with bail bondsmen to cheat the court system out of more than $1 million.

Freeman was the one who uncovered the alleged scheme and called in the State Bureau of Investigation.

Zellinger said he appreciated the SEANC endorsement but said any implication that she was dishonest was wrong.

"I look forward to supporting Lorrin Freeman," he said Tuesday. "She is a fantastic candidate, and I will do everything I can to help her win in November."

Triangle DA, sheriff races

In Durham County, Assistant District Attorney Roger Echols defeated fellow prosecutor Mitch Garrell and lawyer Brian Aus in the Democratic primary for district attorney.

District Attorney Leon Stanback, a retired judge who was appointed two years ago to finish the term of Tracey Cline after she was removed from office, didn't seek a full term on his own. Echols faces no Republican opposition in the November election.

Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews will likewise run unopposed in November after defeating security consultant Clarence Birkhead and retired deputy Richard Buchanan in the Democratic primary.

In Orange County, a six-person race to succeed retiring Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass is likely headed to a runoff, with retired deputies Charles Blackwood and David Caldwell each winning 30 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.

Cumberland County Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler beat back two challengers for the Democratic nomination and will face one of his former deputies, Republican Charlie Baxley, in the general election.

10 Comments

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  • SaysWhoNC May 8, 3:13 p.m.

    Great question the press should ask Freeman: If elected, do you promise voters you will serve out your entire term?

    Or maybe, say, run for A.G. in 2016?

  • glarg May 7, 3:48 p.m.

    Hey, I welcome all information about how to evaluate these candidates, even if it rumor and innuendo. We can sort through that- look how fast the SEANC story fell apart.

    When is the last time Freeman tired a case though? I have seen Cruden and Bryant in court but they are really just managing their case load. How good would they be managing an office of lawyers?

  • carlomontenegro1 May 7, 2:54 p.m.

    Posted by SAYSWHONC : "When Freeman first took office, she warned her staff that they "serve at her pleasure." False. False. False. Look it up on WRAL. Freeman was asked about Clerk's office employees she fired on her first day, and Freeman cited the NC General Statute language about Assistant Clerks "Serve at the Pleasure of the Elected Clerk". Meaning she can fire without needing a reason. Probably just being too polite to say they were Pueshel's henchmen and therefore had to go.

  • carlomontenegro1 May 7, 2:38 p.m.

    Just stop, SayswhoNC. Freeman has been an amazing Clerk of Court, and for you to say differently shows you haven't ever stopped by the Courthouse. 8 years as Clerk, maybe 10 Million Civil & Criminal filings, and only one complaint against her? Not bad. And no money ever went missing. A couple keystrokes changing a forfeited bond to a reinstated bond. If money was missing, the School Board would have asked for it.

  • SaysWhoNC May 7, 12:23 p.m.

    The hard part about the DA race is that it is essentially two jobs: managerial and then deciding... View More

    — Posted by glarg

    Experience and ability are very different traits.

    Freeman has *experience* as an administrator, but her performance has been poor.

    Which other administrator has let $1M in office revenue go missing for a year?

    When Freeman first took office, she warned her staff that they "serve at her pleasure."

    If she is elected D.A., she probably will serve at the public's displeasure.

  • glarg May 7, 10:59 a.m.

    The hard part about the DA race is that it is essentially two jobs: managerial and then deciding trial strategy advising ADA's on their cases. Note that the WRAL myBallot thing asks no questions that would help in evaluating these issues.

    Freeman clearly has more managerial experience. But Cruden and Bryant are clearly better lawyers.

    At least Wake has some competition so that the DA's office doesnt turn into a decade long laughing stock like Durhams.

  • SaysWhoNC May 7, 10:39 a.m.

    Lauren Freeman's big weakness as a candidate for Wake D.A. is her lack of prosecutorial experience. Her experience is so thin that she has had to resort to declaring publicly that, to put those legitimate concerns to rest, she herself WILL ACTUALLY TRY CASES. Imagine!

    So if you're on the Republican side, do you want to put up against Freeman someone who, like her, has no significant prosecutorial experience, and give up your main election advantage?

    Or do you pick someone who has actually prosecuted more than 50 murders, including 5 capital trials, and hundreds of other violent felonies? That's Jeff Cruden. Only Cruden can beat Freeman in the fall.

    In other words, do you want to elect a real prosecutor, or a politician?

    And, Republicans, do you want to win? If you do, Cruden is the obvious choice.

  • less_govt_is_better_govt May 7, 10:26 a.m.

    ABC - anybody but Colon!

    The wake county voters will benefit from one less member of the good ole' boy government regime.

    Up next for the elected DA is squashing the your word vs. their word mentality that abounded under the previous DA administration (see Greg Taylor case and Duane Deaver case for job reinstatement)

  • sinenomine May 7, 9:35 a.m.

    The thing I can't get past about Cruden is that he almost lost the high profile second degree murder case against Raymond Cook (the doctor who killed Elena Shapiro while he was driving drunk) before it began. Fortunately the jury had not yet been empanelled when Cruden discovered his mistake. An article in the Winston-Salem Journal can be found here:

    http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/paperwork-omission-delays-trial/article_06a6f0b8-3b91-5432-8013-2781d38bc637.html

  • sinenomine May 7, 9:17 a.m.

    Zellinger's high profile attacks on Freeman, shamefully funded by the State Employees of North Carolina apparently from spite, may have backfired. My spouse works for the state and was a member of SEANC - until this campaign. My spouse resigned from SEANC last week in disgust over its tactics in the district attorney's race.