Local News

Sheriff: Publicizing Affair 'Politics At Its Worst'

Posted November 2, 2006 6:01 a.m. EST

— Less than a week before the election, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison spent Thursday discussing his affair with a married Garner woman instead of campaigning, saying the threat of a lawsuit forced his hand.

Harrison admitted the affair with Jodi Mitchiner Cook after it was leaked to the media in what he called a political ploy.

"I've been honest since the day I've come in here, and I'll be honest until I leave. I had an affair. I'm not going to say I didn't," he said.

But he questioned the timing of the disclosure.

"All of a sudden, six days before the election, this breaks the news," he said. "I think it's politics at its worst."

Andrew Cook, the woman's husband, told WRAL the information about the affair came out following a hearing two weeks ago in his divorce case against his estranged wife.

The Garner optometrist maintained the information wasn't released for political reasons. He said he and his attorney hadn't intended to talk about the case but were contacted by the media.

Cook said he believes Harrison broke up his marriage, and he is considering filing an alienation of affection lawsuit against him. But he said any such move would come after the election.

Harrison adamantly denied breaking up the marriage, but he declined to go into detail. He said he would allow the courts to resolve the case.

Former sheriff John Baker, who is running against Harrison in next week's election, said he knew nothing about the affair allegation or how it became public. He declined to comment on whether he thought it would affect the outcome of the election.

Harrison said he hopes the issue doesn't come into play at the polls.

"I hope the people judge me on the job I'm doing as Wake County sheriff," he said. "I love what I do, and I'm going to continue to serve the people of this county. That's my job. I'm going to work hard at it. I hope after Tuesday, I can sit here and say the same thing."

Ballard Everett, Harrison's campaign manager, said the sheriff wouldn't let the disclosure affect him or the campaign.

"There's been talk for 15, 18 months that Mr. Cook would do something, so we've just been waiting. Six days before the election, it's got to be very political," Everett said. "(Harrison) is focused on being a good sheriff, and he's not going to let something like this distract him."