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Wake Sheriff's Race Moves On After Affair Confession

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The details of Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison's private life are now public record, including a confessed affair with a married woman. Now, observers are gauging the fallout in his re-election bid.

Harrison sat before cameras Thursday and confirmed that after the death of his wife, he started a relationship with a woman in what he called a troubled marriage. He questioned the timing of the leak.

"I think it's politics at it's worst," Harrison said.

The Wake County Republican Party said Friday that they stand behind Harrison as their choice for sheriff, despite his admission. One day after the revelation, party chair David Robinson greeted early voters outside a Garner polling site and said he was not deterred by the news.

"He’s still on our voter guide. I don't think we'll notice an impact one way or another," he said.

Peace College Political Science Professor David McLennan said it’s damage control time for Harrison and Republican supporters.

"You do have to be ready for attacks on your personal life," McLennan said.

Still, McLennan said he believes late race surprises rarely shake committed voters.

"Typically, last-minute revelations of the personal nature don't have much impact except with the voters who are undecided," he said.

The Democratic challenger, former Sheriff John Baker, told WRAL he won’t make Harrison's personal life a campaign issue in these final days. He also denied he had anything to do with the release of the affair.

Robinson said many fellow Republicans are disappointed by Harrison's admission. But come Election Day, the results all boil down to voter turnout.

"I think the voters are more interested in law-and-order issues this election than values in particular," Robinson said. "I think he's always been the top of our law-and-order ticket."

Harrison received some good news on Friday. Although

The News & Observer

featured a front-page story on his affair, the newspaper’s editorial-page staff endorsed Harrison for re-election.