Triangle Politics: A weekly look at the local political scene

TriPol: 3 announce plans to run for Wake district attorney

From staff reportsJanuary 17, 2014 

Two prosecutors and the county’s clerk of courts have announced plans to run for Wake County district attorney now that Colon Willoughby has announced his intentions not to seek re-election.

Jefferson Griffin and Boz Zellinger, both assistant district attorneys in the office that Willoughby has led for nearly three decades, announced their intentions Tuesday. Wake County Superior Court clerk Lorrin Freeman announced her plans on Friday.

Freeman, 42, is a former assistant district attorney and assistant attorney general. As court clerk, she oversees more than 150 employees who process court files and records, schedule civil and criminal cases, and collect and disburse court costs and fines for victims and taxpayers. She also serves as a judge in certain cases, including foreclosures, adoptions, and estate matters.

When she was a prosecutor in the Wake DA’s office, Freeman handled juvenile crime prosecutions at a time when youth crime was escalating. Like Griffin and Zellinger, she gave a nod toward Willoughby as a mentor.

“Colon serves with tremendous integrity and leaves a strong legacy,” she said in a statement.

Griffin, 33, a Nash County native, received a law degree from N.C. Central University and worked in private practice for two years before joining the Wake D.A.’s office in 2010. He has prosecuted a wide range of cases in district and superior court, according to his candidacy announcement.

“Colon Willoughby has served the district and state with a tremendous level of respect and dignity,” Griffin said in a statement. “I plan to bring those same values of honesty, hard work, and integrity to this office.”

Zellinger, 32, a Raleigh native who has prosecuted a range of cases, including several high profile murder cases, said his campaign has already collected $76,726.

“Colon Willoughby has inspired me to lead the District Attorney’s office, and I will continue to advocate for victims of crime,” Zellinger said in a statement. “I will use my experience to modernize our office in order to meet the challenges that crime presents in our community.”

Wake County District Court Judge Ned Mangum, another Raleigh native who contemplated a campaign, said this week that he enjoyed being on the bench and would not run for district attorney.

The filing period for the Nov. 4 election opens Feb. 4 and closes Feb. 28.

Merrill to visit community

Wake County Superintendent Jim Merrill will hold five community meetings for people “to share their thoughts, concerns, and priorities” for the school system.

Merrill said the “Superintendent’s Direct Line” meetings are important at this time of the year because school officials are working on the budget and other plans for the 2014-15 school year. The first meeting will take place Thursday at East Wake High School in Wendell, where speakers could raise concerns about the challenges facing that part of the county.

The other four meetings will be held Jan. 27 at Broughton High School in Raleigh; Jan. 29 at Panther Creek High School in Cary; Feb. 3 at Southeast Raleigh High School; and Feb. 17 at Wakefield High School in Raleigh.

“I encourage everyone who cares about Wake schools to join us,” Merrill said in a written statement. “This is a time to listen and let our community do the talking,”

The meetings will run from 4:30 to 8 p.m. The first 90 minutes will be reserved for school employees to speak. After a 30-minute break, the final 90 minutes will be open to parents and the public.

Speakers will get three minutes and can talk at only one of the meetings. People can begin signing up to speak on-site at 4 p.m. People are asked not to discuss personnel issues or private student matters.

Interim Durham DA won’t run

Interim Durham District Attorney Leon Stanback says he is not going to seek election for a full term (“They’d cut off my retirement check”) and supports Assistant DA Roger Echols to take the job over.

“Mr. Echols is my favorite,” Stanback said. “I couldn’t do this job without him, … and I think he’s an excellent choice.”

Stanback, a retired judge, was appointed to serve out the term of former DA Tracey Cline, who was removed from office in May 2012.

Meanwhile, District Court Judge Nancy Gordon has started her re-election campaign, posting a “Keep Judge Nancy Gordon” Facebook page ( goo.gl/9pvW2V). As of Friday night, the page had 128 “likes.”

Candidate filing for the 2014 elections opens Feb. 10.

Political events

• Democratic Women of Wake County is hosting a Ladies Night Out with former state Senator Ellie Kinnaird on Tuesday, Jan. 21, at 6 p.m. in Cary at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen, 7307 Tryon Road. Kinnaird will speak about recent changes in voting laws. To attend, contact Rebecca Llewellyn at 919-834-3774 or email at rebllew@gmail.com.

• The executive committee of the Durham County Republicans meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Healthy Start Academy, 807 W. Chapel Hill St. All registered Durham Republicans are welcome. Info: emily.walker@durhamgop.com.

Got a tip, item or coming event? Fax Triangle Politics at 919-829-4529, or send email to metroeds@newsobserver.com. Send items by noon Thursday.

Compiled by Anne Blythe, T. Keung Hui and Jim Wise

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