Local Politics

Wake DA race pits courtroom, court system experience

Wake County voters next week will elect a new district attorney for the first time in almost 30 years.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Wake County voters next week will elect a new district attorney for the first time in almost 30 years.

Republican defense attorney John Bryant and Democrat Lorrin Freeman, who has twice been elected clerk of Superior Court for the county, are vying to succeed longtime District Attorney Colon Willoughby, who stepped down in March to join a law firm.

In addition to serving as the top prosecutor in one of North Carolina's largest counties, the Wake County district attorney also is politically significant, having authority to pursue criminal charges in state government corruption cases.

Freeman touts her experience in running an office that is twice the size of the Wake County District Attorney's Office.

"Having the experience to be able to lead that team is very important," she said. "We have over 100,000 criminal cases every year, so (we need to be) constantly finding ways to work smarter and more effectively."

Meanwhile, Bryant emphasizes his courtroom experience, having tried cases for 25 years.

"The skill set I think I bring to the job is my years of trial experience," he said. "She doesn't have any jury trial experience, and I think that's the top function of the top prosecutor in Wake County."

Freeman previously served as an assistant district attorney and assistant attorney general.

"I have tried cases on behalf of the state of North Carolina in my career," she said. "I am the only candidate who has ever prosecuted a criminal case."

Bryant said he wants to streamline the office. "I would also like to get out into the county and spend time in the county trying to keep people from coming to the courthouse to resolve differences," he said.

Willoughby, a Democrat, has endorsed Freeman for the office, while Republican Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison is backing Bryant.

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