Rowe 1st in Democratic primary for Wake sheriff, but runoff may loom. Harrison takes GOP.

·2 min read

Willie Rowe finished ahead of incumbent Gerald Baker in the Democratic primary for Wake County sheriff Tuesday night, but not by enough to avoid a possible runoff.

Among Republicans, former Sheriff Donnie Harrison easily took the Republican nomination, claiming 80% of the vote.

With all precincts reporting, Rowe finished with just under 30% of the vote to Baker’s 24%.

Cedric Herring finished closest to them with 16% of the vote, followed by Roy Taylor, Joe Coley, Tommy Matthews and Randolph Baity.

In North Carolina, candidates must win more than 30% of votes in their race to secure their party’s nomination for the general election. If no one reaches that threshold, the runner-up can request a runoff.

Reached late Tuesday night, Baker said his campaign could not yet comment on the results or a runoff.

“We’re still looking at a few things,” he said.

Baker won the sheriff’s race in 2018, a year when North Carolina voters chose Black sheriffs in all seven of the state’s largest counties.

Gerald M. Baker
Gerald M. Baker

He ousted then-sheriff Harrison, running largely on his opposition to partnering in the 287(g) program with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency responsible for deportations and other immigration law enforcement.

Donnie Harrison
Donnie Harrison

But he presided over a bumpy and often controversial four years, drawing nine challengers for the office — six of them within the Democratic party. His tenure was marked by staff shortages and criticisms over management, along with multiple lawsuits and complaints filed by ex-employees alleging discrimination and retaliation.

A retired major, Rowe served 28 years with the Wake sheriff’s office after serving in the Army. He pledged to boost staff by increasing pay and allowing retirees to work part time. He could not be reached late Tuesday.

Harrison was first elected Wake sheriff in 2002, serving four terms. Among other priorities, he pledged to restore the seniors well-check program discontinued under Baker.

In Wake County, 44,902 voters went to the polls early from April 28 through May 14.

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