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Petition Deadline Looms For Durham District Attorney Hopefuls

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DURHAM, N.C. — Durham County's Republican chairman spent the weekend running door-to-door, literally, on a quick campaign.

"(The) key discussion point will only be giving Durham a choice," Steve Monks told a group of supporters helping him on Saturday as he raced against a fast-approaching deadline to get in the race for district attorney.

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    This was the first and only weekend Monks had to deliver his message. He must collect the signatures of 6,303 registered Durham voters to have his name placed on the November ballot.

    Last Monday, a small group of supporters launched his petition drive. The petition is due at noon on Friday.

    "People say, 'Why'd you start so late?' That's a good question," Monk said on Saturday. "I wish I'd started two months ago, but the house just got on fire recently."

    Monks wants to challenge Democrat Mike Nifong for the county's position as lead prosecutor. Right now, Nifong -- who has come under criticism for his handling of a rape investigation involving three Duke University athletes -- is unopposed in the race.

    Early in the investigation, in which an exotic dancer alleges three lacrosse players raped her, Monks supported Nifong, he said. But then, Monks said, Nifong made comments in the media that he should not have.

    "I think there's some question in people's minds about whether justice can be accomplished in that courthouse over there," Monks told WRAL last week while standing outside the Durham County Courthouse.

    Even though he has no experience as a prosecutor and has never run for elected office, Monks said he thought it was important that someone challenge Nifong.

    Monks is not alone. Durham County Commissioner Lewis Cheek has also authorized a petition drive. If both can collect the required amount of signatures, their names would be listed as unaffiliated candidates on the ballot.

    Unlike Monks, Cheek, who is a private attorney, has said he is still undecided about whether he would run. Although he was not out collecting signatures over the weekend, a group of his supporters was.

    At this point, neither Cheek nor Monks is a "write-in" candidate; and Monks said he does not plan to run as one.

    Nifong, who beat out challengers Freda Black and Keith Bishop in May's Democratic primary election, has refused to speculate or comment on candidates whose names are not yet on the ballot.

    Currently, he is unopposed in the general election because no Republican candidates ran in the May primary.


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