Going into campaign season, Durham County sheriff candidate Clarence Birkhead had a substantial lead over his two rivals in campaign donations.
According to initial reports filed with the Durham County Board of Elections, Birkhead’s campaign committee had taken in $5,385, while incumbent Sheriff Mike Andrews had $1,000 and retired Durham Sheriff’s Maj. Ricky Buchanan opened with just $100.
Campaign spending for Birkhead totaled $1,769.92. Neither Andrews nor Buchanan reported any campaign expenses.
Birkhead filed to run and registered his campaign committee Feb. 28, and his “disclosure report” includes totals through March 10. Buchanan and Andrews formed committees in December and January, respectively, and filed disclosures in January and February.
The next candidate reports, covering through March 31, are due April 28.
Buchanan reported donating $100 to open his own campaign fund. Andrews reported $500 donations from architect John L. Atkins and homemaker Annie Byrd
Birkhead’s largest contribution, $2,500, came from retired attorney Frances Langstaff of Durham, followed by $500 from Stephen Glantz, a retired school administrator in Hurdle Mills, and Charlotte physician John Rennick. Physician Ronnie Beamon and his wife, Katy, also from Charlotte, gave $300.
Duke University Vice President Tallman Trask gave $250, as did Associate Vice President Scott Selig and his wife, Kristen. Birkhead spent 17 years on Duke’s campus police, seven as chief, before leaving to become Hillsborough chief of police in 2005. He resigned in 2010 to run, unsuccessfully, for Orange County sheriff.
Subsequently, Hillsborough police lost their accreditation from the national Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement due to inadequate record-keeping. According to his campaign website, bit.ly/1hiGok0, Birkhead’s most recent job was associate vice president at Queens University in Charlotte.
Buchanan served 32 years in the Durham sheriff’s department, retiring as major of operations in 2012. According to his campaign website, bit.ly/1gKak9W, he was the department’s accreditation manager through five inspections by the national commission. The Durham sheriff’s department has been accredited since 1998.
Durham County Commissioners appointed Andrews ( bit.ly/1h3BgvA) sheriff in late 2011, following former Sheriff Worth Hill’s retirement with almost three years remaining in his term. Andrews was Hill’s chief deputy and Hill had recommended him to take over the office Andrews joined in 1979.
Andrews, Birkhead and Buchanan are all Democrats and as such will be on the ballot in the May 6 primary. If any of them receives 40 percent or more of the vote, he is the Democratic nominee under Durham’s “substantial plurality system,” said Board of Elections Director Michael Perry. Otherwise, the top two finishers have a runoff on June 24.
Since no one from another political party is running, the Democratic nominee for sheriff will probably go on the November ballot unopposed. An independent candidate could, though, petition for a place on November ballot and get one, under state law ( bit.ly/1hiPf5c) by submitting eligible signatures of at least 4 percent of the voters registered in Durham County as of Jan. 1. Petition deadline is June 12.