Jul 20, 2022 - News

Democrats compete in Wake County's sheriff runoff

Illustration of a "hello my name is..." sticker shaped like a police badge.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A small fraction of Wake County's unaffiliated and Democratic voters could determine whether Sheriff Gerald Baker will have a shot at reelection in November.

Driving the news: Early voting in the Democratic primary runoff between Baker and his opponent Willie Rowe is underway. Election day is July 26. But high voter turnout is not expected.

  • An estimated 5% of eligible voters — or about 31,000 people — will cast a ballot in the runoff, according to the county's election director.
  • The winner will face Republican Donnie Harrison in November, who served as sheriff for 16 years, until 2018.

Why it matters: The results will determine the future of policing in Wake County at a time when voters are concerned with both rising crime rates and police accountability.

The intrigue: Baker, the incumbent, has faced intense scrutiny for his management of the department in recent years.

  • As of March, Baker was facing four federal lawsuits from five employees accusing him of discrimination and retaliation. At least one of those has been settled.
  • He's also been criticized for his handling of 2020 protests following the death of George Floyd, in which his deputies used tear gas on demonstrators. Baker argued the use of tear gas was "absolutely necessary."
  • The results of the May primary were a report card of sorts, with Baker only receiving 24% of the vote. Rowe, meanwhile, received just under 30% of the vote.

The bottom line: The runoff will cost Wake County around $1 million, CBS17 reported. If you're a registered Democrat or unaffiliated voter who wants a say in the future of how the county's law enforcement operates, go vote.

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