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Criminal justice should be a matter of common sense, not political fodder, according to a candidate in March’s Republican primary for North Carolina attorney general.
Sam Hayes visited Wilson on Tuesday to meet with a few folks and then took a look at the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.
Hayes said with issues like Second Amendment sanctuaries and voter ID, now is the time for a conservative attorney to represent the state’s interests.
“Democrats have had a stranglehold on attorney general for 150 years,” Hayes said. “It’s time for a conservative change, and I’m a conservative for change.”
Hayes is in a three-way race for the GOP nomination. Also running are Christine Mumma, executive director of the N.C. Center on Actual Innocence, and Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill.
The winner will face incumbent Attorney General Josh Stein, a first-term Democrat.
Stein is a protégé of Gov. Roy Cooper, who served as attorney general for 16 years prior to winning the state’s top office in 2016.
“Stein is an extension of Roy Cooper,” Hayes said. “That’s the problem. In 20 years under Cooper and Stein, there is still a backlog of 15,000 untested rape kits at the state crime lab. I will solve that problem.”
Hayes said he’ll get to the bottom of what’s wrong with the system.
“Every minute of every day that these cases aren’t prosecuted is a denial of justice for victims and their families,” Hayes said.
Hayes served as general counsel for the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality under Gov. Pat McCrory and general counsel for State Treasurer Dale Folwell. Hayes, 47, has practiced law for more than two decades.
At the DEQ, Hayes oversaw litigation that addressed the decades-long problem of coal ash contamination. He served as special counsel in a case blocking a federal takeover of all agricultural land east of Interstate 95 and helped fight a federal takeover of the state’s power grid, which would have meant higher electric rates for North Carolina residents, according to information provided by Hayes’ campaign.
“I’m not a career politician,” Hayes said. “Josh Stein is padding his resume and eying higher office. He’s looking at Sen. (Richard) Burr’s seat. I’m not a career politician. I just want to do the job of attorney general, and if the legislature passes a law, I will defend it.”
Hayes said he grew up in a small town not unlike Wilson. A native of Forsyth County, Hayes now lives in Raleigh. He’s been spending a lot of time campaigning in eastern North Carolina. He said he enjoys meeting people and visiting places he hasn’t been in a while.
“As I talk to voters across the state, I see a lot of concern over the loss of Second Amendment rights,” Hayes said. “That’s why I support Second Amendment sanctuaries.”
Hayes said he’s a big proponent of voter ID and is baffled why Stein didn’t fight for the law when it was recently waylaid by a judge.
“If it’s important in the general election, it’s important in the primaries,” Hayes said.
Hayes also objects to sheriffs refusing to hold illegal immigrants for federal immigration agents.
Hayes graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and received his law degree from Wake Forest University. He remains active with both alma maters, recently completing a four-year term on the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Visitors; he also serves on the economics department advisory board. At Wake Forest’s law school, he serves on the general counsel advisory committee.
Hayes is married with two young children. The family attends Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh.