This story is the latest installment in our “Contenders” series, where we outline the strengths and weaknesses of the people most likely to run for higher office in the coming years. Want to keep up? Sign up for the weekly Longleaf Politics newsletter.

Why Lorrin Freeman is a contender

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman is quickly amassing a resume that will make her a leading candidate for state attorney general in the near future.

The Raleigh Democrat won office after longtime DA Colon Willoughby moved into private practice and has now just won her second term with 63% of the vote. In the role, she’s successfully prosecuted murder trials and an embezzling case at the county register of deeds.

Freeman’s name is now surfacing as a lead investigator in two high-profile cases in North Carolina: the election fraud in the 9th Congressional District and ethics allegations against House Speaker Tim Moore.Freeman’s name is now surfacing as a lead investigator in two high-profile cases in North Carolina: the election fraud in the 9th Congressional District and ethics allegations against House Speaker Tim Moore.

Photo by Lorrin Freeman via Facebook.

Lorrin Freeman’s advantages

Law and order Democrats do well statewide. We’ve yet to see whether the progressive wing of the Democratic Party can have success in statewide elections. They haven’t so far. But more moderate, law-and-order Democrats certainly win. Gov. Roy Cooper is a prime example, along with Attorney General Josh Stein. Freeman’s campaigns have been about public safety, which translates well with moderates and unaffiliated voters.

Experienced politician. The DA role isn’t her first elected office. She previously was elected countywide as Wake County Clerk of Superior Court. Talk about a low-information election. It takes some skill to win seats like that.

Weak bench for Republicans. With Democrats in control of the Department of Justice for decades now, there’s not a whole lot of talent to go around. 2016 Republican candidate Buck Newton lost to Stein for the open AG seat despite Donald Trump and Dan Forest winning their races. I’d love to see Brunswick DA Jon David explore a 2024 bid, but it’s hard to come up with a long list of names.

Lorrin Freeman’s disadvantages

No statewide experience. Statewide campaigns are a whole different ballgame than county races. That’s especially true for urban politicians like Freeman. What works in Wake might not work down east. She’ll also have to build a robust statewide infrastructure that hasn’t yet been tested.

Too partisan? The high-profile cases she’s involved in now are a double-edged sword. Yes, the 9th Congressional District investigation has gotten her on CNN, but it also means she’s being tested in the public eye. She’ll especially have to handle the Moore ethics probe carefully. Freeman needs to look like a tough, independent law enforcement official, not a partisan.

The crystal ball

Freeman will win a third term as Wake DA in 2022, and then run for state attorney general in 2024 after current AG Josh Stein’s second term.

Cover image by Lorrin Freeman via Facebook

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