Updated: Jan 11
If you have been in Wake County long enough it is very likely you have your own story about meeting Donnie Harrison, casually or in a time of need. Donnie has long been a stalwart of law and order during his tenure as Sheriff and a dutiful pillar of the community.
It came then as no surprise that many were disheartened by Donnie's loss in the 2018 Midterm to now Sheriff Gerald Baker. This disheartenment was rightfully felt as many residents of Wake County would soon find out.
Upon assuming the office of Sheriff, Baker signaled that the rule of law was a forethought, taking a backseat to progressive policies. Crime surged, laws were selectively enforced, and officers were cut from the beat. Wake County was no longer a safe place to live for many. The number of thefts, robberies, and assaults skyrocketed. Murder ticked up and Wake County saw a rise in human trafficking.
All of this came about in the span of four years. Not surprisingly, the only thing Baker was better at than making new victims was making people long for Donnie Harrison to make a return. The midterms could very likely see that happen.
Baker was so reviled he lost his own party's primary, something that never happens to an incumbent. This demonstrates Sheriff Baker is even unpalatable to his own voters, being thoroughly rebuked by his once supporters.
It is kind of hard to see a scenario where Donnie doesn't win this November. The momentum is behind Donnie. Every other house has Donnie Harrison yard signs, the campaign has an army of exuberant volunteers, and enthusiasm swells among both Democrats and Republicans for a return of Sheriff Donnie.
People want a Sheriff who stands for law and order. So it is a little curious that Donnie has reversed his stance on immigration. To many's shock, Harrison announced last week that he would no longer enforce the 287(g) program, which let sheriff's deputies and other law enforcement act as immigration officials.
This means the Wake County Sheriff's Department would no longer screen the immigration status of foreign-born persons held in police custody. Not just ordinary people, but those who have been jailed for a crime.
Even more shocking, Harrison also announced he would no longer honor ICE detainer requests without a warrant. This turn about-face is very unlike the Donnie Harrison many have come to know and the decision likely was influenced by close advisers to the former sheriff who believe Harrison's loss in 2018 was due to his support of the program.
Harrison's 2018 loss seemingly came out of left field and Republican leadership scrambled to put together a picture that explained the unexpected loss. Several prominent Republicans quickly surmised immigration to be the issue that caused Donnie to lose. These probable advisers were likely keeping this assumption in mind when they likely advised Donnie to reverse his previous stance.
If this is true, Donnie has made a huge miscalculation in taking this advice. When interviewed, immigration is one of the primary concerns of Republican voters in Wake County ahead of the 2022 Midterm. Second only to inflation and gas prices for many voters.
If the goal of this move is to pull in Democrat votes, this announcement will likely only net a handful of Democrat votes at the expense of a large percentage of Republican votes. The Democrats that have made the conscious decision to vote for Donnie have mostly already done so before the announcement. Any vote gained from the announcement was bought at a very steep price, a price Donnie’s campaign might end up paying dearly for.
The rule of law is Donnie's bread and butter. Harrison has long been the undisputed image of law and order in Wake County, and his reversal on immigration could serve to tarnish this reputation he has so carefully cultivated, as well as turn many ardent supporters against the former sheriff, leaving his campaign effectively dead in the water.
Even worse still, the announcement might drive away those Donnie loyalists that still remain within the Sheriff’s Department. In lieu of the tragic killing of Sheriff’s Deputy Ned Byrd earlier in August, the reversal is sure to elicit resentment within the Department as Deputy Byrd was killed by two individuals with questionable immigration status.
Donnie still has a surplus of goodwill, but if he doesn't reverse course quickly, the issue of immigration might just ruin his chances of reelection this time around. Many want Sheriff Donnie back, but they want rule of law more, including immigration law. Hopefully, Donnie won't let bad advice on immigration sink his campaign.