The winner, an ex-homicide detective who once hosted a true-crime series based on his career, will end Charlotte’s participation in Trump’s effort to go after undocumented immigrants.
by Alex Seitz-Wald
WASHINGTON — It wasn’t even close.
“We are absolutely seeking to put folks on notice,” said Ronald Newman, the director of strategic initiatives for the civil liberties group.
The ACLU spent $175,000 in Mecklenburg County — almost three times the amount the winner on Tuesday raised in the first quarter of the year — helping to turn around a race that internal polling showed was the incumbent’s to lose.
Garry McFadden, a retired homicide detective who has been recognized by former President Barack Obama, won the three-way primary on Tuesday with 52 percent of vote.
There is no Republican on the ballot in the general election, so McFadden is effectively sheriff-elect.
The issue at the center of the campaign was an immigration program known as 287(g), in which local law enforcement agencies partner with Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) to turn over undocumented immigrants arrested on unrelated crimes.
The program has taken on new significance as ICE steps up its raids under Trump and cities in blue states rush to declare themselves “sanctuary” cities.
“I always tell everyone, you will never ever encounter this program unless you are arrested and charged with a crime,” he said.
McFadden, who is African-American, ran on a pledge to end local participation in the 287(g) program, improve police transparency, and enhance conditions at the jail run by the department.
He blames the program for creating roadblocks in several murder cases that remain unsolved, arguing that some witnesses refuse to cooperate with police out of fear they’ll be put on ICE’s radar.
The ACLU, which only started to get seriously involved in elections after Trump’s unexpected victory, does not support or oppose candidates. Instead, it made a scorecard in this contest explaining where each sheriff candidate stood on key issues like immigration, and advocated for its own stance against the 287 (g) program, using phone banks, canvasses, and radio and digital ads to get the word out.
As Democratic pollster Mark Mellman noted, the Democratic-leaning voters in big cities increasingly want their local officials to stand up to Trump, even in the South.
And while criminal justice reform may have stalled in Washington, advocates are notching victories on the local level.
Last year, Philadelphia elected reformist District Attorney Larry Krasner, while a liberal won a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Courtfor the first time in years. Later this month, a candidate favored by reformers is favored to advance in the runoff for sheriff of Dallas County in Texas.
They also hope the outcome is a sign that immigration can be a political winner as Republicans play up fears of undocumented immigrant gangs like MS-13 in campaign ads this year.