GREENSBORO — For the first time in history, a woman will lead the Guilford County district attorney’s office.
Voters on Tuesday elected Avery Crump, 45, to be the top prosecutor. She held off Stephanie Reese in the Democratic primary, getting 53.6 percent of the vote.
Tuesday’s results are complete and unofficial. So, history is on hold for the moment.
But one thing was clear: Without a Republican opponent in November, the Democratic primary decided the election.
As the county elected the first female to oversee the district attorney’s office, it was a revelatory moment — one many thought was too long in coming. And Crump — a District Court judge who resigned to run for district attorney — made it.
“I’m very pleased, happy and tired,” she said just after 11 p.m. “But I’m ready to get to work. I plan to observe, visit other DAs’ offices and get ready to make some changes on how the office is run.”
Late Tuesday night, though, it looked as if the race might go down to the wire.
As of 10 p.m., 127 of 165 precincts had reported results with Crump holding a 10 percentage point lead over Reese — a margin that had narrowed through the night.
“This is worse than waiting on a jury,” said Reese, a Guilford County assistant district attorney, at a gathering downtown.
As the returns trickled in Tuesday, Reese headed to Stumble Stilskins, a West Market Street watering hole. There, surrounded by supporters, wellwishers and family, she watched as more precincts reported results and the gap between the two candidates narrowed.
Earlier in the night, she trailed Crump by as many as 19 percentage points.
“I’m humbled and grateful for the people who supported me and helped me campaign,” Reese said. “You rarely get an opportunity to see the people who will rally around you and that was a unique gift.”
Reese and Crump both announced their candidacy after the current district attorney, Doug Henderson, chose to retire and return to private practice.
Former Gov. Mike Easley appointed Henderson in 2005 after his predecessor, Stuart Albright, became a Superior Court judge. Henderson won his first election in 2006 against the only other woman to run for that office — Julia Hejazi — and each election after that.
Reese, a graduate of Wake Forest University School of Law, is also an adjunct professor at her alma mater.
Crump, a graduate of N.C. Central University School of Law, served as a District Court judge since 2008, but resigned to run for district attorney.
Both Crump and Reese have experience as prosecutors and worked in the same office under Albright. Reese is also a former defense attorney.
Both are also friends — and that created an interesting dynamic during their campaigns.
They stayed civil toward one another.
They took lunch breaks together after working the polls.
They agreed on many key points.
Both women felt the district attorney needed to be more visible in the community — Henderson kept a low profile during his tenure — to help residents understand the role of the office.
But there were differences between them.
Crump feels the current district attorney’s office under Henderson wasn’t always scheduling juvenile cases efficiently.
Reese has a passion for working with victims and defendants, especially juveniles. She believes in finding solutions that results in justice being served but doesn’t necessarily result in prison time.
Henderson’s term continues until the new year, when the elected district attorney takes over.
Contact Danielle Battaglia at 336-373-4476 and follow @dbattagliaNR on Twitter.