Lawyer Challenges Durham D.A. Nifong as Write-In Candidate

The chairman of the Durham County Republican Party said Wednesday he will mount a write-in campaign challenge against the district attorney prosecuting three Duke University lacrosse players charged with rape.

Steve Monks, a lawyer in private practice, had the required 100 signatures to qualify as an unaffiliated write-in candidate. Michael Perry, deputy director of the Durham County Board of Elections, said officials had validated 114 of 122 names they reviewed on the petition by Wednesday afternoon -- which means a line will appear on the ballot where voters can write in Monks' name.

"Our present DA, appointed by the governor, deserves our respect and appreciation for his many years of service," Monks said in a statement. "However, that experience is what makes the problems that he has encountered as our DA so troubling. His acknowledgement of 'some problems' with a troublesome case does not do justice to the gravity of concern that many people in our community have about his ability to not only prosecute 'that' case but also to effectively run the office."

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No Republican ran for the office in May's primary, when incumbent District Attorney Mike Nifong beat two candidates in the Democratic race and appeared headed for election without a challenger in the November general election.

Monks had previously tried to get his actual name on the general election ballot, but failed to get the 6,300 required signatures. County Commissioner Lewis Cheek, a Democrat, did collect enough signatures, but announced July 27 he would not campaign for the office.

Cheek, whose name will appear on the November ballot anyway, said he wanted to focus on his law firm and will not serve if elected. Gov. Mike Easley would have to appoint Nifong's successor if Cheek wins.

Both Monks and Cheek expressed an interest in running for district attorney after Nifong became a focal point of the lacrosse investigation. Nifong has aggressively pursued allegations a 27-year-old student at North Carolina Central University, hired to perform as a stripper, was raped by three men at a March party thrown by Duke's lacrosse team.

A grand jury indicted three players with rape, kidnapping and sexual offense. Attorneys for all three have strongly proclaimed their clients' innocence. A trial isn't expected before spring 2007.

Monks, who promised to reconsider the case if elected, had said he would only run as a write-in candidate if he raised at least $50,000 to support a campaign.

"I know I'm going to get there now," Monks said Wednesday. "The die is cast. We're going forward."

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