Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker lost Tuesday to challenger Willie Rowe in a runoff for the Democratic nomination for sheriff in the county of North Carolina’s capital city. In the runoff to May’s primary election Rowe took 75% of the vote to Baker’s 25%.
In November, Rowe will face Republican Donnie Harrison, the former eight-term Wake County sheriff. Harrison lost to Baker in 2018 and then won the May Republican primary with 80% of the vote.
Baker was a one-term sheriff whose tenure was marked by criticism from those within his department and in the community. Six Democrat candidates challenged him in the primary with Rowe winning by less than the 30% required under state law to avoid a runoff.
In 2018, Baker ousted then-incumbent Harrison, running largely on refusal to comply with Immigration and Customs law-enforcement detainers.
During his one term, Baker also faced multiple lawsuits from former employees who accused him of discrimination and running the department with a retaliatory approach to terminations. In a case first reported by WRAL, Deputy Cedric Herring offered his letter of resignation, and Baker promptly fired Herring’s family members who worked in the department. Wrongful termination lawsuits against Baker became more common over his tenure as sheriff.
Memos from the county finance office also questioned how his office managed taxpayer money, reported expenses, and awards contracts.
Rowe, who beat Baker in the primary Tuesday. is a retired Army veteran and served in the Wake County Sheriff’s office for 28 years. He is currently chairman of the Wake County ABC Commission, with a term expiring at the end of July.
“I want to congratulate Willie Rowe on winning the Democratic nomination for Sheriff,” Harrison wrote in a statement released Wednesday morning. “Willie and I have run against each other before in 2014. Clearly, voters in Wake County are looking for a change in the management and operations of the Sheriff’s office. Now that the general election is set, I will mount a vigorous campaign detailing my plans for a safer Wake County for everyone.
“I will work to put more deputies in our neighborhoods and communities. I will work with our county commissioners to address the mental health and substance abuse crisis we are facing in Wake County. I will be accessible, accountable, and transparent. I am looking forward to the election – knowing Wake County voters aren’t happy with the status quo.”