Election 2022: Satana Deberry cruises to second term in race for Durham County DA

·3 min read

Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry coasted to a second term Tuesday night as one of North Carolina’s most progressive prosecutors.

With all 57 precincts reporting, Deberry had 79% of the vote in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Challenger Jonathan Wilson had 16%, followed by Daniel Meier, who received 5% of the vote after withdrawing from the race.

No Republican is running in the general election.

Four years ago, Deberry was elected in an early wave of prosecutors across the country who 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, then executive director of the N.C. Housing Coalition, won nearly 49% of the vote in a three-way Democratic primary. Incumbent DA Roger Echols and defense attorney Daniel Meier took 41% and 11% of the vote, respectively.

Meier withdraws

Meier initially filed to run against Deberry again in 2022, along with Wilson. He later dropped out and endorsed Wilson.

Meier has said Deberry 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 had said in The N&O’s Voter Guide, he wanted to focus on reducing violent crime, repairing and improving relationships with victims and others, and removing barriers to fairness and equity in the criminal justice system.

Deberry said her accomplishments include reorganizing the office around the prosecution of the most serious crimes, diverting low-level offenses from the system and expanding 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.

Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry is facing two challengers in the May 17 Democratic primary.
Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry is facing two challengers in the May 17 Democratic primary.

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.

Deberry was endorsed by Indy Week and the political action committees of the Durham Committee on the Affair of Black People and the People’s Alliance.

Wilson was endorsed by the Friends of Durham.

Durham clerk of court race

In the three-person race for Durham’s clerk of superior court, Aminah Thompson defeated incumbent Archie Smith, who has been clerk since 2002, and LiBria Stephens.

With all precincts reporting, Thompson had 65% of the vote, followed by Smith (22%) and Stephens (12%).

Thompson was endorsed by the political actions committees of the People’s Alliance and the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People. Smith was endorsed by the Friends of Durham.

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