Raleigh, NC — Democrat Willie Rowe has defeated incumbent Gerald Baker to secure the party’s nomination in the race for Wake County sheriff.
Rowe is set to face Republican challenger and former Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison in the Nov. 8 general election.
With 208 out of 208 precincts reporting, Rowe had 23,763 votes (75.35%) compared to the 7,773 votes (24.65%) cast for Baker.
“We are in this position because of you,” Rowe said. “The phone calls, the texts, reaching out to people, spreading this message by word of mouth, social media [and] every avenue.
“You made the difference. Believe we are going to be victorious tonight, I owe it all to you. Let’s get ready to come together and move forward to win it all in the fall.”
Rowe vowed to make Wake County the safest place to live, work, play and visit.
“We can do it by improving morale at the sheriff’s office by increasing staffing, improving the working conditions and just working together as a team,” Rowe said.
Late Tuesday night, Baker said he was proud of the last four years.
“The voters have spoken and that’s fine. I’m fine with that. We’ve been working hard. This office is serving the county. Tonight’s results sets this office back about four years, and come November, going to see it set back about 16 years. That’s neither hear nor there at this point,” he said.
Until a new sheriff is elected, Baker said he would continue serving the county.
“I want everyone to know this office is not going to miss a bit — hasn’t missed a beat since the day we took office,” said Baker.
“Morale in this office is better than it’s ever been, and I know that because I’ve been here. I know that morale issues are going to be there. You’re talking about an agency that employs 1,000 human beings.”
Harrison served as Wake County sheriff from 2002 to 2018. Baker worked on behalf of the Wake County Sheriff’s Office for 28 years before he upset Harrison in 2018.
“It’s not about Willie [Rowe] and Donnie [Harrison],” Harrison said. “It’s about the people of this county and the deputies that work the roads and the jailers that work the jail. We’ve got to make it better for them.
“Especially the citizens, they deserve better when it comes to law enforcement.”
Six other North Carolina municipalities held local general elections on Tuesday, while other municipalities and boards of education also held runoff elections or second primaries.
In the May primary election, Rowe and Baker were the top finishers among seven Democratic candidates. Neither Rowe (29.4%) nor Baker (24.06%) got 30% of the votes cast plus one, which was needed to win the nomination outright during May’s primary.
Rowe is an Army and law enforcement veteran. Earlier this month, Rowe told WRAL News he is concerned with the number of vacancies in the sheriff’s office.
“Improving morale, improving working conditions, ensuring our staff as well as the general public that they are appreciated,” Rowe said. “That they are valued.”
“I happen to believe morale is better in this office than it has been in a long, long time,” Baker told WRAL News earlier this month. “Obviously, people are going to have different opinions about that.”
Both Rowe and Baker said they support the right of law-abiding citizens to own their weapons but want to pay closer attention to who is getting them.
“I would like to think that a lawful citizen wouldn’t and shouldn’t have an issue with having to go through a little bit more process,” Baker said.
Rowe explained what he would try to do if elected sheriff.
“We have to manage how weapons are disbursed [to] make sure it is done legally, responsibly, that the people who end up with the weapons are properly trained and have the best intentions,” Rowe said.