Wake County District Attorney: Damon Chetson

Read Chetson’s candidate questionnaire here.  

We like incumbent Lorrin Freeman. She is an honest, even-tempered, forthright public servant who takes the work of her office seriously. She is transparent with the media and is clearly guided by a worldview that shapes her moral and ethical approach to the job. Additionally, we applaud the criminal justice policies she worked to implement with other court officials, including lowering bail bond minimums and enhancing pretrial services.

But a progressive, reform-minded DA Freeman is not. Freeman prosecutes low-level drug possession and opposes a bill that would prohibit juveniles from receiving life sentences. In the past, she has sought the death penalty, which she says “should be reserved for the most egregious cases.”

As a progressive publication, we don’t feel we can endorse a prosecutor who will seek the death penalty. And although Freeman notes that her office has not declared a case capital since 2017, she has tried six capital cases before a jury during her tenure as DA, resulting in one death sentence for a man convicted of a double murder at a Raleigh hotel.

Chetson, Freeman’s challenger, is reform-minded—if not, as a former Republican-turned-Bernie volunteer, terribly exciting. But he’s sound on reform and opposes capital punishment. That makes Chetson the clear choice.

Other candidates: Lorrin Freeman

Wake County Sheriff: Willie Rowe

Rowe has not returned his candidate questionnaire.  

Incumbent Sheriff Gerald Baker was a good pick in 2018 when Democrats were coming out in numbers to end Republican Donnie Harrison’s 16-year reign. But after Baker’s mishandling of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, when sheriff’s deputies fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protestors, we’re not endorsing him for another term.

Baker’s victory brought seven other Democrats out of the woodwork, all vying to take the sheriff’s office in a progressive direction. Two in particular stand out—Willie Rowe, a former major in the sheriff’s office with decades of law enforcement experience, and Cedric Herring, a former sergeant in the State Highway Patrol with a passion for social justice.

Rowe, 62, has a long record of community service, advocating for at-risk youth and treatment of substance abuse. He’s a deacon at First Baptist Church and currently serves as the chairman of the Wake County ABC Board and Raleigh Inter-Church Housing, where he works to increase affordable housing. Law enforcement, Rowe says, is a matter of preventing crime by engaging with the community, rather than making more arrests.

Rowe supports reform of the school resource officer program (to reduce criminalization of minority students), pretrial release programs, and education programs for people in jail. Rowe has also said he would not reinstate the 287(g) program nor honor detainer requests from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Another good candidate is Cedric Herring, 53. He has less experience as a manager in law enforcement but is determined to reform the sheriff’s office by demilitarizing the force, investing in de-escalation training, and releasing body camera footage to the public. Herring wants to reduce arrests and eliminate bonds for low-level crimes, he says. He also opposes the 287(g) program.

Still, we endorse Rowe.

Other candidates: Cedric Herring, Randolph Baity, Gerald M. Baker, Joe Coley, Tommy Matthews, Willie Rowe, Roy Taylor

Wake County Board of Commissioners, District 1: Donald Mial and Shaun Pollenz

Read Mial’s candidate questionnaire here and Pollenz’s questionnaire here

Incumbent commissioner Sig Hutchinson is vacating his seat, leaving it open to a newcomer. And two strong challengers are vying to take Hutchinson’s place.

Wake County voters may know District 1, covering the far eastern part of the county, as Wake’s conservative district and the subject of grumbles from Republicans as it’s usually held by a Democrat (county commissioners are elected at large).

Democrats swept the board of commissioners in 2014 and, to our knowledge, a Republican hasn’t served on the board since.

This election cycle sees two types of Democrats running for the District 1 seat: Donald Mial, in the more traditional mold, and Shaun Pollenz, a staunch progressive.

Mial, who has the endorsement of Hutchinson, is retired from the NC Department of Public Safety and has a platform focusing on the county’s explosive growth and sustainability, and supporting and funding the county’s public schools.

Pollenz, the son of an English teacher who grew up in Wake and is now an attorney who has represented Black Lives Matter protesters in court, ran for the county school board in 2018 to be “a voice for teachers.” His platform is focused on education, affordable housing, and economic development.

Both solid candidates, Pollenz and Mial would likely vote the same way on most issues that come before the Board of Commissioners. While Wake voters at-large—younger, more liberal—might prefer Pollenz, district voters may prefer Mial.

We’re endorsing both.

Wake County Board of Commissioners, District 3: Cindy Sinkez 

Read her candidate questionnaire here.

At the very western end of Wake County sits District 3, which Commissioner Maria Cervania is vacating to run for the state House. That has opened the race to three qualified Democratic women—Cindy Sinkez, Cheryl Stallings, and Lisa Mead.

If only two candidates were running in this race, we would endorse them both. But since there are three, in order to give voters a little bit of guidance, we’ve decided to endorse Sinkez.

A former PTA leader and public schools champion, local Democratic party volunteer, and state Equal Rights Amendment advocate, Sinkez is the most progressive candidate in the race—endorsements from the Progressive Caucus of the NC Democratic Party and Progressive Democrats of Wake County make that clear. A longtime advocate for public education, this Cary-based mother and grandmother seems best-positioned to lead on issues ranging from education, to transit, to the environment.

Mead and Stallings would also make excellent commissioners.

Mead is a substitute teacher in Wake County schools and a former grant writer and fundraiser for nonprofits with a strong growth-oriented platform. Stallings is a psychologist, small business owner, and member of the Apex Town Council, the only candidate of the three with experience as a local elected official.

Other candidates: Cheryl Stallings, Lisa Mead

Cary Town Council, Districts A, C, At-Large

We’re not endorsing in Cary’s municipal election as we don’t feel informed enough on the issues that the town is facing to make a decision.

That said, we find two candidates running this cycle to be pretty exciting: Carissa Johnson, who is running at large, and Amanda Murphy, who is running in District C, would both bring fresh ideas to a council that’s traditionally been dominated by wealthy conservatives. Both have been endorsed by the Wake County Democratic Party—we trust the party’s judgement.

Other candidates: 

At-large: Ken George, Ed Yerha

District A: Chase McGrath, Jennifer Robinson

District C: Mary Insprucker, George McDowell, Renee Miller, Jack Smith

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