According to unofficial primary election results, Jeff Nieman won the Democratic primary election for district attorney for District 18, which includes Orange and Chatham counties.
Nieman defeated the other Democratic nominee, Assistant District Attorney Kayley Taber. Nieman won 60.04 percent of the vote with 20,268 votes. Taber had a total of 13,491 votes, or 39.96 percent.
The seat became vacant following long-time District Attorney Jim Woodall's retirement announcement last year.
After his win on Tuesday, Nieman will run unopposed in the general election since no other parties had candidates run in District 18.
Nieman has worked as an assistant district attorney in the Chapel Hill area for 16 years. He has also served as vice-chair of the Orange County Partnership to End Homelessness, chair of the Orange County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and an adjunct professor at N.C. Central University's School of Law.
Nieman said there hasn’t been a contested election for the district attorney for District 18 in 24 years. He added this is important because he thinks the district attorney’s position is the most fundamental criminal justice position at the local level.
Despite the importance of the job, Nieman said there hasn’t been a community conversation about what the county wants as a district attorney in a generation.
“We had over 75 people spread out throughout Orange and Chatham counties today working to help get our message across in community equity justice,” Nieman said on election day.
Neiman expressed his gratitude for his supporters, saying it almost brought a tear to his eye to think that so many people came to help out with his campaign. He said he was both humbled by and grateful for their support.
Nieman has experience in misdemeanor and felony cases. He hopes to emphasize community, equity and justice within the court system.
“What I don’t want is a system that holds poor people who violate the law to a different standard or more accountable or punishes them more because of their poverty,” Nieman said.
According to his website, Nieman believes that implicit bias and systemic racism affect all aspects of community members’ lives. He seeks to work towards fixing this by making implicit bias training mandatory for all district attorney staff and furthering efforts to recruit applicants from underserved communities.
Jane Kerwin, a volunteer for Nieman's campaign and fellow attorney, said she worked some of the polling sites and canvassed around different neighborhoods. She added that she knew Nieman before he got into politics.
“He won me over before he was a politician or before he was a candidate over 10 years ago," Kerwin said.
She said that she believes the community is paying the price for low turnout in local primary elections and emphasized that it is important to get to know candidates and support them.
Kerwin said anybody running for an elected position, especially in local races, contributes a large amount of time and energy to the position. She added that having a lot of candidates to choose from is important for a healthy democracy.
“I’m a Jeff supporter because I know him personally and I know his passion,” Kerwin said. “That made it worth it for me to really want to see somebody succeed — who’s doing it for the greater good.”
Taber, Nieman's opponent, said she felt fortunate to work in District 18 for over 20 years and that it was her duty to file for office.
"Please join me in congratulating Jeff Nieman!" Taber said in a Tuesday tweet, "A well run positive race! Forward together."
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