Local News

Political Fight Brewing Over Vacant Wake County Commissioner Seat

Posted January 30, 2003 10:02 a.m. EST

— A political fight is brewing as Democrats prepare to fill a vacant Wake County Commissioner seat. If caucus members choose former Sheriff John Baker, Republican Commission Chairman Herb Council said he will reject the nomination and call for a special election, which would cost taxpayers about $160,000.

The matter of filling Vernon Malone's empty desk just got a lot more complicated and political.

"For a Republican to tell Democrats who they may or may not vote for strikes me as fairly arrogant," said Michael Weisel, chairman of the Wake County Democratic Party.

Weisel said Council's move to keep Baker out of a commissioner's seat insults taxpayers.

"From a fiscal responsibility [standpoint] and the many tasks Wake County has to spend $160,000, I think there are better places to spend it than a special election," Weisel said.

"My recommendation is that if it is the sheriff that we hold an election," Council said.

Council argues putting the recently defeated former sheriff in a position to influence the current sheriff's budget would create a major distraction.

"Let's focus on those issues that are important and move our county forward and not let it get too bogged down in 'he said, she said' about the sheriff and what's going on over there now, relative to how he did it," he said.

Democrats warn the same candidate will prevail with or without a costly election.

"We are not going to allow Republicans to dictate who a Democratic candidate is," Weisel said.

In addition to Baker, Doris Burke, Joseph Sansom, and Harold Webb are also Democratic candidates for the open seat at Saturday's caucus. If a special election is called, Republicans will not be allowed to vote.