Nifong Re-Elected As Durham County DA
Posted November 7, 2006 10:03 a.m. EST
DURHAM, N.C. — Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong has won his re-election bid after a highly divisive campaign thrust into the national spotlight by Nifong's handling of the Duke lacrosse rape investigation.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Nifong led with 49 percent of the vote over Durham County Commissioner Lewis Cheek, who had 39 percent. Steve Monks, a Republican who mounted a write-in campaign for the position, trailed with 12 percent of the unofficial total.
Interview With Mike Nifong
Political Analysts Look At Durham DA Results
Upset with Nifong's handling of allegations that three Duke lacrosse players raped a stripper at an off-campus party earlier this year, Cheek got into the race solely to beat Nifong. He had pledged not to serve if elected, which would have forced the governor to appoint a replacement if he won. Monks had also criticized the veteran prosecutor for how he has conducted the Duke investigation.
Nifong said Tuesday evening that he considers the votes against him to be protest votes, but he said that won't affect his future decisions in the Duke lacrosse case or in other cases.
"I'm going to continue doing what I've done for the last 28 years for the next four years," Nifong said. "And for the next four years, I'm going to continue doing what I believe to be the right thing."
Nifong said that the contentious campaign has been hard on his family, but he has taken the discord in stride.
"I've been through a lot worse than this," said Nifong, a cancer survivor. "This is inconvenient, but it's not life-threatening. Win or lose, I'm still Mike Nifong."
Nifong shook hands at Durham polling sites early Tuesday, despite mixed reactions from voters. At one site, Nifong ran into longtime acquaintance and Duke basketball announcer Bob Harris, who refused to shake Nifong's hand. And Harris wasn't the only voter to react negatively to Nifong.
"Over at Forest Hills, I went to shake the hand of a woman holding a Cheek sign, as I have in all the places I've gone," said Nifong to WRAL earlier in the day. "She did refuse to shake my hand. It turns out she's the mother of a Duke lacrosse player. She indicated that, and of course, people have the right not to do that too."
However, Nifong said that most voters he met -- even those campaigning in opposition to him -- were pleasant.
Nifong was running for office for the first time, since the previous district attorney who stepped down appointed him to the post. His road to possible re-election had been thrown into chaos since the Duke lacrosse rape case ignited tensions and disputes over his handling of the case.
In May, he narrowly won the Democratic nomination for the position over former prosecutor Freda Black and lawyer Keith Bishop. Last week, Black had urged her supporters to vote for Cheek in Tuesday's elections.