RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison overcame the disclosure last week of an affair with a married woman to top Democratic challenger John Baker Tuesday and win re-election.
Last Thursday, news of Harrison's affair with the wife of a Garner optometrist became public. Harrison said he felt the disclosure was a political move, and he said he hoped people judged him on his record in office, not based on his private life.
Voters apparently did. Harrison had a commanding lead all night long over Baker, who held the sheriff's office for 24 years before bowing to Harrison four years ago. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Harrison had captured 63 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.
Harrison filled vacancies in the Wake County Sheriff's Office and re-structured operations after taking office. He said the changes improved morale and put more deputies on the streets.
"This shows people are satisfied with what we're doing, but I will continue to improve," he said. "I've got some great employees, and we've got some great programs out there, and I think people saw the difference."
Baker had said a narrow loss in 2002 -- only 2,200 votes separated the two candidates after a recount -- left a bad taste in his mouth, and he felt many Wake County voters would prefer to return him to office. He said he is finally ready to move on.
"I felt that the 24 years that I gave the citizens of Wake County was the best that I had, and I look forward to going into a new venture and whatever that may be I will give it the best that I have also," Baker said.
Harrison said the wider margin of victory was a pleasant end to a tense campaign.
"I tried to stick with what we've done at the sheriff's office," he said. "I can't thank my employees enough. They make the sheriff look good."