Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry took an early lead Tuesday evening as she vies for a second term as one of North Carolina's most progressive prosecutors.
After the release of the nearly 27,400 votes cast early, Deberry had 80% of the vote in the Democratic primary. Wilson had 16%.
Four years ago, Deberry was elected in an early wave of prosecutors across the country that promised to prioritize violent crime while reforming a judicial system that penalizes people of color and the poor.
"Over my term, we have proven we can serve victims and prosecute the most serious and violent crimes without sacrificing the needs of people with mental health or substance abuse issues," Deberry wrote in an email to The News & Observer.
In May 2018, Deberry won nearly 49% of the vote in a three-way Democratic primary with incumbent DA Roger Echols and defense attorney Daniel Meier taking 41% and 11% of the vote, respectively.
Meier initially filed to run against Deberry again in 2022, along with Wilson. He later dropped out and endorsed Wilson.
Meier has been critical of Deberry and said she isn't doing enough to fight violent crime.
"Durham is in the midst of a violent crime crisis and our current District Attorney is unwilling to accept any responsibility for it, nor take any real steps to address it," Meier wrote in his announcement that he was withdrawing.
If elected, Wilson said in The N&O's Voter Guide that he wants to focus on reducing violent crime, repairing and improving relationships with victims and others, and removing barriers blocking fairness and equity in the criminal justice system.
Deberry said she wants to improve coordination with law enforcement, expand mental health treatment and diversion options and expand victim and community services.
Deberry said her accomplishments include reorganizing the office around the prosecution of the most serious crimes, diverting low-level offenses from the system and providing and creating services that include diversion, mitigation and restorative justice programming.
"There is ample evidence from jurisdictions both large and small that diversion of low level cases results in less recidivism and better long term outcome for people," Deberry wrote in an email.
In addition, the District Attorney's Office has worked with local and national researchers to create more transparency, more diversion options and lead a courtwide training effort program tying national reform policies to issues facing Durham County, she wrote.
Criticism from victims
In the weeks before the election, Deberry's office has been criticized for its handling of recent cases and for not notifying victims of violent crime before reducing the sentences of their convicted assailants.
Wilson was endorsed by the Friends of Durham.
Durham clerk of court race
Three people are running in the Democratic primary for Durham's clerk of superior court: incumbent Archie Smith, who has been clerk since 2002, LiBria Stephens, and Aminah Thompson.
At 7:40 p.m. Thompson had 67% percent of the vote, followed by Smith (21%) and Stephens (12%).