Three Democrats running for Durham district attorney in the May 8 primary will face each other in a debate at North Carolina Central University next week.
Durham attorney Scott Holmes will moderate the debate between incumbent DA Roger Echols and challengers Satana Deberry and Daniel Meier. Deberry is executive director of the North Carolina Housing Coalition and Meier is a criminal defense attorney.
The debate is being sponsored by The Justice Collaborative Engagement Project, ACLU of North Carolina, and Carolina Justice Policy Center. It will take place at six thirty p.m. Tuesday at the NCCU School of Law. (See the candidates’ responses to questionnaires from the ACLU of NC and the Carolina Justice Policy Center here).
“The real-life consequences families in our community face today are the result of over-policing and over-prosecution. In order to see real change here in Durham County, we need the prosecutor’s office to represent the needs and wants of the people who live here,” Holmes said in a statement. “This discussion should offer some much-needed insight into where our candidates stand.”
According to a press release from the Justice Collaborative Engagement Project, a research and advocacy organization, the debate will cover “the critical role of the District Attorney in creating an equitable, responsible justice system” and issues including money bail, drug enforcement, juvenile justice, racial disparities in the criminal justice system, diverting cases from court, and transparency. The Justice Collaborative Engagement Project is engaging in district attorney races in North Carolina, Texas, California, Massachusetts and Maryland.
Deberry is pledging to push for reforms in the District Attorney’s Office, including diverting more cases from court, speeding up trials and limiting the use of cash bail to nonviolent offenses. She says the DA’s Office under her leadership would be more transparent. (Read Deberry’s responses to the INDY‘s candidate questionnaire here.)
Echols says he has already implemented reforms along these lines like restorative justice practices, a misdemeanor diversion program, mental health court and an amnesty day for people who have had their drivers licenses revoked. (Read Echols’ responses here.)
Meier, too, is calling for more cases to be diverted from court, including by expanding the misdemeanor diversion program and advocating for the elimination of low, secured bonds that people have to pay in order to be released from jail. (Read Meier’s responses here).
The District Attorney’s race has also drawn the attention of the national Color Of Change PAC, the Political Action Committee arm of the eponymous racial justice organization, which is supporting Deberry. In addition to Deberry, so far this year, the PAC is endorsing candidates for district attorney in Dallas County, Texas, and Pitt County, North Carolina. Color of Change PAC has organized a slate of events in support of Deberry, including a block party this Saturday at Campus Hills Park.
Deberry also has the endorsement of Emily’s List and the Durham People’s Alliance. Echols is endorsed by the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and Meier by the North Carolina Sheriff Police Alliance. There are no Republican challengers in the DA race.
Early voting ahead of the May 8 primary continues through May 5.