DURHAM — Unofficial returns Tuesday night showed Roger Echols easily defeating two opponents to become Durham County’s next district attorney.
With 61 of 63 precincts reporting, Echols held 61.49 percent of the vote, followed by defense attorney Brian Aus, with 29.5 percent, and former assistant district attorney Mitchell Garrell, with 9.01 percent. Provisional and transfer ballots remain to be counted before results are made official by the Board of Elections May 13.
Echols is currently chief assistant to interim DA Leon Stanback.
The winner will take over an office that has seen its last two elected occupants – Mike Nifong and Tracey Cline – removed for professional misconduct.
After Cline’s removal, Stanback, a retired judge, was appointed to serve out Cline’s term. He chose to return to retirement.
Aus and Garrell ran promising to restore public trust in the district attorney’s office, while Echols has said he will carry on improvements Stanback has already made and work more closely with law enforcement.
Since no other party has a candidate for district attorney, the winner in Tuesday’s Democratic primary becomes the presumed winner overall. However, election law allows an independent candidate to get a spot on the Nov. 6 general election ballot by submitting a valid petition by June 12.
In Durham, the district attorney has a staff of more than 30, including 18 assistant DAs; the salary is set and paid by the state, currently $127,737, according to the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys.