Sheriff Candidates Participate in WakeLP Sponsored Forum


Raleigh [Wed. Sep. 22, 2021]—A standing-room-only crowd packed Tobacco Road tonight to attend a Wake County Libertarian Party-sponsored forum for the nine announced candidates running for sheriff. The candidates who participated included Democrats Randy Baity, Joe Coley, Tommy Matthews, Willie Rowe, and Roy Taylor and Republicans David Blackwelder, Donnie Harrison, Stephanie Hopkins, and Tivon Howard. Current Sheriff Gerald Baker, a Democrat, did not respond to an invitation to attend.

After each candidate took a couple of minutes to introduce themselves, forum moderator Ken Penkowski asked some two dozen questions, directing each one to one or more candidates in order to ensure each candidate got roughly equal time. Consequently, every candidate did not have the opportunity to address every question. Here is a summary of their responses:

  • Donnie Harrison
    - Approved of the use of body cameras
    - Expressed caution concerning legalizing "constitutional carry" due to the need to restrict firearm access for individuals with mental illness
    - Endorsed the use of civil asset forfeiture so long as it is court-ordered
    - Cited his positive relationship as a Republican with the mostly Democratic county commissioners who allocate the funds for the budget during his several terms as sheriff

  • Willie Rowe
    - Endorsed the release of body camera footage within 48 hours
    - Opposed the elimination of pistol permits
    - Endorsed the use of civil asset forfeiture and emphasized the need to reduce the demand for illegal drugs
    - Supported the use of drones for surveillance in particular and high tech tools in general for law enforcement, as long as it is done legally.
  • David Blackwelder
    - Suggested the release of body camera footage within 48 hours be limited to crime victims and alleged perpetrators, not to the general public, in order to avoid any ongoing investigation
    - Supported working with ICE in cases with public safety implications so long as county sovereignty is protected
    - Would increase pay for deputies and corrections officers
    - Would personally drive a "30-year old Crown Victoria" on the job rather than a new Hummer
    - Asserted as a Republican he would follow the "80/20 rule" and focus on areas of agreement (80%) with the mostly Democratic county commissioners, who allocate the funds for the budget, rather than disagreements (20%)
  • Stephanie Hopkins
    - Said that changes to qualified immunity law should be part of the conversation about improving policing policy
    - Endorsed "Constitutional carry" in N.C.
    - Supported the legalization of medical marijuana citing her personal experience with family members who have benefited
    - Said she would lobby to cut the sheriff's salary from $185 thousand a year—which is more than the governor's salary—to $100 thousand
    - Would make Wake jails less comfortable to discourage recidivism
    - Would add a class on the Constitution to the police academy curriculum
  • Tivon Howard
    - Agreed that changes to qualified immunity law should be part of the conversation about improving policing policy so long as officers who properly follow current procedures are protected
    - Asserted that if asked to have Wake deputies perform unconstitutional acts by a Federal agency, he would refuse
    - Said that while officers should be well-armed enough to protect themselves, surplus military equipment is generally not needed
    - Supports the use of drones for surveillance so long as probable cause is legally established
    - Would recruit a Christian and a Catholic minister to enhance the capacity of the Sheriff’s Office to interact effectively with folks
  • Roy Taylor
    - Supports the establishment of an independent civilian review board so long as the members are properly trained
    - Opposes the elimination of the pistol permit system unless the Federal system is upgraded to enable checking of mental illness status of applicants (because currently that can only be done on county-level)
    - Would aim to reduce the $100 million budget of the Sheriff’s Office by focusing on reducing recidivism by enhancing educational opportunities for prisoners and working with other county and state agencies to transfer some or all of the 60% of inmates in prisons with mental illness issues to facilities equipped to treat them
  • Randy Baity
    - Supports the establishment of an independent civilian review board
    - Said that the incumbent sheriff was wrong to cancel an agreement to work with ICE
    - Endorsed the use of civil asset forfeiture so long as it is court-ordered
    - Said that while he has not read the entire U.S. and N.C. constitutions, he believes in operating in congruence with them and he challenged any of the other candidates to recite any part of the U.S. Constitution
  • Joe Coley
    - Disagreed with proposals to eliminate no-knock raids
    - Supports limiting law enforcement cooperation with Federal agencies to matters involving public safety
    - Affirmed that Sheriff’s Office personnel are obligated to serve all the folks residing in Wake County including members of the Hispanic community regardless of immigration status and cited his personal experience running a landscaping business
    - Proposed increased efforts both to separate juvenile from adult offenders and to hire more deputies and corrections officers
  • Tommy Matthews
    - Citing his experience managing Wake County jails, proposed better training for corrections officers and reducing the number of inmates with mental illness, who are not well-served in a prison environment
    - Suggested that the top drug law enforcement priority should be trafficking, not use or possession
    - Asserted that undocumented aliens in Wake generally pay taxes and contribute economically and deserve police protection and pointed out that deportation of male breadwinners increase the burden on taxpayers who then end up supporting the deportee's dependents
    - With respect to cooperation with the Feds, emphasized that the Sheriff’s Office enforces laws, not regulations

"Even though the election is over a year away, there is much interest in this race," commented WakeLP Vice Chair Patrick Bowersox, the chief organizer of the event. "This is the largest candidate forum we have ever sponsored."

"Our vision is a free, peaceful, and prosperous North Carolina where every individual has the opportunity to pursue her, his, or their unique vision of a rewarding and enriching life," added WakeLP Chair Travis Groo. "Defending every person's individual rights is a key component of pursuing that mission, and the sheriff has a lot to say about how well—or poorly—that can be achieved here in Wake County. As libertarians, we have a responsibility to all the citizens of the county to ensure that candidates for sheriff have an opportunity to publicly address issues pertinent to individual liberty."

The deadline for candidates to file to run for sheriff is in December, so it is possible more candidates may join the race or some may drop out. The primary elections in March 2022 will winnow the Democratic and Republican fields down to one candidate each. The election is in November 2022.

The forum was featured in late evening news reports on at least three local TV stations and set a new all-time attendance record for a WakeLP event: 137 people (97 in-person plus at least 40 online via Zoom). A recording of the event is posted on the WakeLP's YouTube channel.

Showing 2 reactions

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  • Roy Taylor
    commented 2021-10-08 15:23:15 -0400
    I greatly appreciate the Wake County Libertarian Party hosting this event. I believe it was very informative and will help everyone learn more about each candidate.
    Thank you,
    Roy Taylor
  • Brad Hessel
    published this page in News 2021-09-26 11:32:01 -0400
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