New and familiar faces in sheriff's races | Our Endorsements | Indy Week

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New and familiar faces in sheriff's races


Durham County

Compared to his successor Worth Hill, whose tenure as Durham's sheriff included a handful of mini-scandals involving deputy misconduct, incumbent Mike Andrews, Hill's former chief deputy appointed to the post in 2011, has run a drama-free department. Though Andrews is not much of a politician, we are endorsing him. He is respected by citizens, oversees a stable of smart investigators and does not show any tendency toward overreach. He has made inroads with Durham's Latino community, his communications team does not put up walls, and he has embraced technology and public relations. Though some Durham inmates have complained about the conditions of his jail, and we question the need for a rapid response team in the Durham County Justice Center, Andrews has established himself as a progressive chief. He also received the endorsement of the Durham People's Alliance.

Andrew's main opponent is Clarence Birkhead, a law-enforcement consultant and former Hillsborough and Duke University police chief who has campaigned on the theme of "One Community One Durham" and admirably voiced his support for LGBT rights. He retired from his Hillsborough post in 2010 to run, unsuccessfully, for Orange County sheriff while the Hillsborough department was under investigation for improper recordkeeping during his tenure. Though the investigation didn't uncover anything linking directly to Birkhead, the department was stripped of its accreditation, which we don't see as a good sign. Birkhead was endorsed by the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People.

Ricky Buchanan, former major of operations for the Durham sheriff's office, retired in 2012, not long after Andrews' appointment. We appreciate his support for the decriminalization of marijuana, his skepticism of the war on drugs, and his disinterest in deporting undocumented immigrants. But we question why he is running for sheriff after retiring from office two years ago.

Orange County

For the first time in 31 years, the Orange County Sheriff election occurs without an incumbent candidate. Longtime lawman Lindy Pendergrass, at 79, has decided to retire the badge. The race to succeed him is full of capable candidates. We are endorsing David Caldwell Jr.

We appreciate Caldwell's broad professional background, which includes law enforcement, military service and social justice advocacy. (Now retired, Caldwell is the director of the Rogers Eubanks Neighborhood Association.) We are pleased to see Caldwell, an African-American, putting significant emphasis on the recruitment of minority deputies. We are equally pleased with his concern for environmental justice, community organization and social class divides. The sheriff's office is seeing upticks in calls for service, and Caldwell seeks to beef up reserve units. He also recognizes the need for more community outreach.

Caldwell's opponents include Andy Cagle, known for his business acumen and bluegrass talents; Charles Blackwood, a retired sheriff's operations chief with a management pedigree; and Keith Webster, a younger lieutenant with the Carrboro Police Department who emphasizes technology; Buddy Parker, a sergeant with the Hillsborough Police Department; and Larry Faucette, a retiree from the sheriff's office and a school resource officer for that department. But in a field of quality candidates, Caldwell rises above the rest.

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