Michael Barnes and Andrew Murray are vying to replace 36-year incumbent District Attorney Peter Gilchrist in Charlotte, reports the Charlotte Observer. A Democrat, he’s North Carolina’s longest-serving – and busiest – district attorney, but one who has come under fire for his relatively high rate of dismissed cases. The D.A. is the county’s top law enforcement official. He prosecutes everything from murders to break-ins to traffic violations. Faced with around 230,000 cases a year, he decides which to take to trial, which to plea bargain, which to dismiss.
“It is probably the most important race this November, and the public doesn’t realize it,” says Steve Ward, an assistant prosecutor who plans to retire after the election. “Not only because you have an era ending; the district attorney has an incredible impact on how crime is addressed in this community.” Murray, 48, currently finishing a tour of duty with the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves, will return this week to the city where he has practiced law since 1992, including nearly four years in Gilchrist’s office as an assistant prosecutor. Barnes, 39, has juggled his campaign with his practice and duties as a three-term member of the Charlotte City Council. “I don’t believe  criminals are being held accountable the way they should be,” he told the Fraternal Order of Police last week.