Baker will run for top lawman position

The former sheriff could go head to head with Harrison for a third time

Staff WriterFebruary 23, 2006 

Baker says he'll focus on the county's gang problems.

Former longtime Wake County sheriff John Baker Jr. has officially asked for his old job back. Baker, who served as sheriff from 1978 to 2002, filed today for the Democratic primary for the sheriff's race in November.

If he wins the nomination, he will likely face incumbent Republican Donnie Harrison, a retired state trooper who filed for re-election last week.

It would be the third time the two men have run against each other. In 1998, Baker beat Harrison, but he lost a rematch in 2002. Since then, he has held fund-raisers and periodically told reporters that he intended to run again. After filing, Baker said his campaign would focus on the county's gang problem. "We have a severe gang problem here in Wake County," he said. "I plan to spend a great deal of my time trying to encourage the young people to see that gangs are not the best thing for them."

Harrison, a retired state trooper, said he would run on his record. He cited several new programs from the past four years, including an award-winning SWAT team, a white-collar crime unit and a program that checks on senior citizens through automated phone calls. "What we're going to continue to do," he said, "is protect and serve the people of this county."

A former defensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baker was the first black sheriff in North Carolina since Reconstruction when he was first elected.

Staff writer Ryan Teague Beckwith can be reached at 836-4944 or rbeckwit@newsobserver.com.

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