Politics & Government

Mecklenburg County sheriff: Irwin Carmichael, Chris Hailey win primary races

Democrat Irwin Carmichael and Republican Chris Hailey won late Tuesday in primaries for Mecklenburg County sheriff.

Carmichael, a captain in the Sheriff’s Office who started as a volunteer reserve in 1986, had 52.70 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary after being endorsed by outgoing Mecklenburg Sheriff Chipp Bailey, according to unofficial returns around 11 p.m., when all precincts had reported.

He defeated Antoine Ensley, a former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officer and former police chief in Fletcher, N.C., who is a recruiter for the city of Charlotte. In an effort to rustle up votes, Ensley showed up to at least one polling location on a horse Tuesday.

Hailey, the director of public safety training at Central Piedmont Community College, lost to Bailey in 2010. Late Tuesday, he had a commanding 73.75 percent of votes in the Republican primary. He defeated Louis Rango Jr., a CMPD auto theft detective whose grassroots campaign focused on rehabilitating juvenile offenders.

Hailey attributed his victory to his law enforcement experience.

Voters “saw my experience, my managerial experience, my educational background, that’s exactly what they saw and they decided with their votes,” he told the Observer Tuesday.

Hailey has said he wants to decentralize Mecklenburg’s jail, opening up satellite offices in the northern and southern parts of the county so police officers spend less time driving criminals to jail and more time policing the streets. He also proposed expanding educational opportunities for employees of the Sheriff’s Office.

Carmichael said he wants to put a microscope on the jail’s education and vocational programs – carpentry, general equivalency diplomas, horticulture – to see if they can be tweaked to help lower the recidivism rate. He also wants to see what improvements can be made to the jail’s substance abuse program.

Carmichael, 49, presented himself as a businessman with management experience and as the candidate best suited to carry on the legacy of Bailey, who announced last year that he wouldn’t run for re-election after two terms as sheriff. Carmichael told voters he’d been serving the community for decades, after being born on a farm off Beatties Ford Road.

He has focused on training and self-defense techniques at the Sheriff’s Office, drawing on his skills as a ninth-degree blackbelt in kempo karate.

Hailey, 50, has been in public safety for 27 years – with the Raleigh Police Department and then with the Highway Patrol.

As a trooper, he served stints in Mecklenburg, Union and Wake counties, but also in Pasquotank County in Eastern North Carolina.