RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry announced on Friday that she is running for North Carolina attorney general next year.
Her candidacy shakes up a Democratic primary for the job that had appeared to swing heavily toward U.S. Rep. Jeff Jackson. Now Jackson, who got into the race two weeks ago after the General Assembly, during redistricting, drew his home into a heavily Republican congressional district, will compete with a current top local prosecutor from an urban county that is overwhelmingly Democratic.
Deberry was first elected DA in 2018 and was reelected last year after winning almost 80% of the Democratic primary vote. Her time as district attorney has been marked in part by efforts to alter how cash bonds are used to reduce what she considers unnecessary jail time before trials, and to promote diversion programs for offenders of nonviolent crimes.
“The people of North Carolina deserve an Attorney General who is fair, firm, and consistent. An Attorney General who will go to work for them every day no matter where they come from or who they are,” Deberry said in a news release. “My life’s work has been dedicated to putting the people above politics and the people’s business first,” she said, adding that “as Attorney General of this state, that’s exactly what I will do.”
Duplin County attorney Charles M. Ingram and Fayetteville lawyer Tim Dunn also have announced bids for the Democratic nomination to become North Carolina’s top law enforcement officer. Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop said in August he would seek the GOP nomination. Primary elections are March 5.
A Republican hasn’t been elected attorney general in North Carolina in well over a century. Current Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, is running for governor.
Bishop and Jackson are considered strong fundraisers and high-profile names in their respective parties. Jackson ran for U.S. Senate until he left the race in late 2021, deferring to ultimate nominee Cheri Beasley.
Deberry, whose candidacy was first reported by WFAE-FM, hasn’t formally run for a statewide position before and would become the first Black woman elected to such a job if she were to win in November 2024. Jackson, an ex-state senator, Afghan war veteran and current lawyer in the National Guard, also was once a former assistant prosecutor in Gaston County.
Jackson’s campaign put out a statement late Friday mentioning his own legal career and saying that “we’re glad to welcome anyone to the race and hope that any primary can be positive and thoughtful.”
Deberry told The News & Observer of Raleigh during her 2022 DA’s campaign that she had “brought a sense of equity and fairness” to the Durham DA’s office.
“Our approach separates out the violent crime from the unnecessary prosecution of the most vulnerable members of our community just because they are poor or mentally ill or have substance abuse issues,” she told the newspaper. She also said at the time she would continue to decline to consider the death penalty in murder cases, calling the punishment “neither fair nor equitable.”
Deberry, who is from Richmond County and graduated from Princeton University and Duke University law school, also previously served as general counsel for the state Department of Health and Human Services and executive director of the North Carolina Housing Coalition.