RALEIGH — Wake County voters will have a choice between Republican John Bryant and Democrat Nancy “Lorrin” Freeman when they go to the polls in November to elect the next district attorney.
With all precincts counted in a Republican primary runoff between Bryant, an attorney in private practice, and Jeff Cruden, a career prosecutor in the Wake district attorney’s office, Bryant had 63.61 percent of the vote to Cruden’s 36.39 percent in official totals.
Bryant was the second-highest vote-getter in the May GOP primary in which 42,590 ballots were cast in Wake County. Cruden, who has campaigned on his experience as a criminal prosecutor, was the top vote-getter in May with 12,717 votes to Bryant’s 12,313.
Voters cast 9,226 ballots in Tuesday’s runoff, a 2.41 percent turnout, according to the Wake County Board of Elections.
In the 10 weeks between the primary and runoff, Bryant and Cruden, both former Democrats, got locked in debate about an unusual topic in district attorney races.
Each tried to position himself as the better party representative.
Bryant, a lawyer in private practice who sought an N.C. Senate seat in Wake County as a Democrat in the 1990s, has included a call for more efficient government as part of his campaign platform.
Cruden has questioned Bryant’s prosecutorial experience, noting that he has not worked in a district attorney’s office.
Bryant holds up his experience with the N.C. Board of Nursing, for which he has prosecuted hundreds of alleged violations of the Nurse Practice Act for more than 22 years.
Freeman, the Democrat seeking the district attorney job, has been the Wake County Clerk of Court since 2006. She has criminal prosecution experience as a former Wake assistant district attorney and a former state assistant attorney general.
For many years, Wake County voters have not had a choice for district attorney.
Colon Willoughby, the top prosecutor for nearly three decades, rarely faced opposition at the polls during his terms. In January, Willoughby surprised his staff when he announced he would not seek re-election this year.
With Wake being the home of state government, the county’s district attorney is perhaps the most powerful prosecutor in North Carolina.
Many of the state’s public corruption and government malfeasance cases land in the Wake courts.
North Carolina’s district attorneys not only oversee the prosecutors, investigators and administrators in their offices, but they also decide which cases to pursue while trying to balance the interests of justice and the communities they were elected to serve.
Blythe: 919-836-4948; Twitter: @AnneBlythe1