Durham Voters Elect New Sheriff And District Attorney

May 9, 2018

Durham's new sheriff, Clarence Birkhead, at a sheriff candidate forum in April, 2018.
Credit James Morrison / WUNC

Durham is getting a change in leadership in both law enforcement and criminal justice. Former Hillsborough Police Chief Clarence Birkhead beat incumbent Mike Andrews in Tuesday's Democratic primary for sheriff with 69 percent of the vote. Satana Deberry unseated incumbent district attorney Roger Echols with 48 percent of the vote.

There are no Republicans running in either race so Birkhead and Deberry will assume their positions barring a successful write-in campaign in November.

Birkhead said people in Durham sent a message that they want a new approach to law enforcement.

“We got to be innovative, we got to be progressive," Birkhead said. "We got to be welcoming and affirming. I think that’s what our platform represents. That’s what I ran on. And now it’s time to go to work." 

One of hist first priorities when taking office will be to engage with Durham residents by going out into the county's many communities. 

Birkhead lost in a similar match up to Andrews in 2014. But support for Andrews has eroded because of his willingness to cooperate with federal immigration agents and concerns over jail conditions. Birkhead has vowed not to cooperate with immigration agents.

In the race for district attorney, Deberry beat DA Echols by eight points, winning Tuesday's Democratic primary. A third candidate, Daniel Meier, finished with roughly 11 percent of the vote.

Satana Deberry delivering a victory speech to supporters on election night.
Credit James Morrison

Deberry thinks her holistic approach to criminal justice resonated with Durham voters.

“Systemically we have so many issues to address and all of these issues are tied together and we can’t just look at criminal justice in a silo,” she said, shortly after learning of her victory.

Deberry said criminal justice, housing, economic development are all related. Her victory brings change once again to a position that has been rife with turnover.

Durham’s two elected district attorneys before Echols, Mike Nifong and Tracey Cline, were removed from their post for professional misconduct. Echols' predecessor served temporarily to finish Cline’s term.