Buncombe County – Citing a lack of leadership in Todd William’s District Attorney’s Office, former Buncombe County First Assistant District Attorney Doug Edwards is seeking the Democratic nomination for Buncombe County District Attorney.
“Buncombe County deserves a district attorney who is a leader, with substantial experience, and is committed to keeping our community safe,”
Edwards said in a press release announcing his candidacy. “While prosecution is the primary responsibility of the DA, it is not the sole objective. The objective is to understand the law and ensure its fair application to ensure public safety in every corner of Buncombe County. The role, when done properly, protects individual rights and the community. We need a DA who will put people over politics, isn’t afraid to lead, and who will do the right thing.”
Asked what led him to leave the DA’s office in December and run for office, Edwards said, “I don’t want to get into the specifics of it right now, I think that’s something that will come with time, but [it was] a culmination of things that lead me to leave office and lead me to ultimately decide to run.”
A native of North Carolina, Edwards received his B.S. at Wingate University and earned his law degree from the North Carolina Central University School of Law. He landed a job at the Buncombe County District Attorney’s office right after passing the bar. He served as an assistant district attorney for over 10 years under both Williams and former Buncombe DA Ron Moore, where he prosecuted complex, high-level felony offenses including murder, firearm offenses, vehicular homicide and habitual offenders.
“A lack of clear direction and support over the last seven years has resulted in high turnover and low morale within the District Attorney’s office and law enforcement alike, and the negative impact on public safety is apparent,” said Edwards in the release. “I will be a district attorney that provides strong leadership, will be proactive in restoring relationships and will work hard to ensure that we all live in a safe and healthy community.”
According to Edwards’ press release, He “…will bring a victim-centered, common-sense approach to public safety, ensuring fair and consistent outcomes. He will focus resources on the most severe cases, including those involving gun violence, sex offenses, and high-level drug trafficking. He will be responsive to the concerns of local community members and business owners dealing with criminal activity by working together with partners to address the issues at hand. Doug will display compassion by utilizing pre-trial diversion programs, treatment courts, and alternatives to incarceration for youthful, low-level, and non-violent offenders.”
Asked what he’d bring to the office that is missing, Edwards reinforced, “Bringing strong leadership and substantial experience. I think I got a lot of experience working in the courts. I’ve developed a relationship with folks here, whether be it’s court personnel, community members, law enforcement, defense bar. I’ve developed relationships over the last 10 years I think are vital. I’ll bring a much more clear direction for the office.”
“Throughout his career, Edwards has been a strong advocate for traffic safety and victim rights,” the release stated. “In 2018, he was named the North Carolina MADD Superior Court Prosecutor of the Year, in recognition of his efforts in combating impaired driving. In addition, Doug served on the National MADD Child Endangerment Panel, helping make national policy recommendations to address child fatalities and injuries due to impaired drivers,” which will be good news to at least one community.
In 2019, current Buncombe DA Williams dismissed a case against Sarah Hoski after Hoski was arrested by the NC Highway Patrol for a Driving While Impaired (DWI) accident in which a Woodfin Police Car was severely damaged. At the time, the Tribune contacted Woodfin Police Chief Michael Dykes about the dismissal. Dykes said he didn’t even receive notice of the dismissal. “The Woodfin Police Department was not contacted by the District Attorney’s Office and had no official notice what the fate of this case was,” he told the Tribune.
Dykes went on to say, “As for our reaction, we are obviously dismayed that any DWI case is dismissed by the District Attorney’s Office in what we feel was not only a prosecutable but also a winnable case. We, along with the taxpayers of Woodfin, are victims in this matter and obviously would have preferred to have our day in court to let a judge decide the merits of the case.”
Diversity, Transparency and Community
Edwards’ press release goes on to say, he “…understands the importance of protecting the community, advocating for victims, and holding offenders accountable, while also seeking to better understand and address the causes of crime with the ultimate goals of fairness and safety for all citizens. He values diversity, transparency, and community engagement and has the credibility, experience, and courage to lead the District Attorney’s office forward.”
“I’m invested in this community. My family is here. I care deeply about the community and about the safety of this community, It means a lot to me,” said Edwards. “You don’t do this job unless you’re going to do it the right way; you do it because you’re passionate about the impact you have on the community and believe you can do good things and impact people’s lives in a positive way. That’s what I did in the over 10 years in office and that’s what I want to instill into the staff. I want to bring that community back here and the trust in the system back to the community,” he adds, “Everyone deserves and has the right to live in a safe community.”
The question is, can Edwards get through a Democrat primary in Buncombe County? The primary tends to favor the more liberal candidates. Usually, whoever wins the Democrat primary faces no Republican challenger. With candidate filing reopening at the end of the month of February, it remains to be seen who all will run.
The Tribune tried to contact Williams for a reaction to Edwards’ announcement and to find out if he plans to run again, but we did not receive a reply as of press time.
Edwards is a Board-Certified Specialist in State Criminal Law. He lives in Asheville with his wife, Nur Badr Edwards, and their three children. For more information, visit www.dougforda.com.