DURHAM — The top assistant prosecutor to suspended Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline filed paperwork Wednesday to challenge Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson for his position.
Jim Dornfried, a loyal aide to Cline and the No. 2 prosecutor in the office, will be the only opponent to Hudson on the November ballot. Hudson has been a judge for two decades and is the senior judge in the county.
The news caught many close to the courts system and Durham politics by surprise, including Hudson.
Hudson has been under attack for months from Cline, who alleges that Hudson is biased against her. Her strongly worded attacks on Hudson have landed her at the center of a rare inquiry to determine whether her behavior has prejudiced justice and brought disrepute to her office. A judge is weighing whether to permanently remove Cline from office.
Dornfried has been by Cline's side through each day of the hearing and has often huddled with her during breaks. He has taken vacation days from his job in the District Attorney's Office to support Cline. The two left the courthouse together on Wednesday after closing arguments in the removal inquiry.
Leon Stanback, acting Durham district attorney and Dornfried's current boss, said he was unaware of Dornfried's decision to run and declined to comment in detail. "I tell you what," said Stanback, a former judge, "life is interesting."
Hudson said in a brief interview that he has known Dornfried for years, was unaware he had any interest in becoming a judge and "certainly did not expect it."
Hudson said he "has to believe it is a continuation of the Tracey Cline situation."
Dornfried could not be reached.
Hudson said the candidacy by Dornfried could lead to some awkward moments, depending on how the campaign unfolds.
Peg Dorer, director of the state Conference of District Attorneys, said that assistant prosecutors who run for a judgeship would avoid handling cases in front of the opponent or take a leave of absence.
J. Andrew Curliss
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