Gerald Hege for sheriff

by Brian Clarey

Far be it from us to interfere in the affairs of Davidson County, down there in the corner of the Triad, nestled in a sinking mountain range, home to High Rock Lake and giant chair, custodian of a barbecue tradition.

But when something noteworthy happens down there we are obligated to turn our keen editorial gaze to the southwest and nose around the details.

Earlier this month former Davidson County Sheriff Gerald Hege filed with the county to make a run for his old post as the top cop. You might remember that Hege, who was elected in 1994 on the campaign slogan, “No deals,” lost his job six years ago after himself pleading guilty to felony obstruction of justice to avoid conviction of embezzlement, obtaining property under false pretenses and a slew of other charges.

Upon his filing, which he said he’d been considering ever since he was strapped with a house-arrest ankle bracelet, Hege called himself a “natural crimefighter” even as he acknowledged that, as a convicted felon, he would be unable to legally carry a firearm.

Our purpose here is not to attempt to sway the voters of Davidson County, where our opinion might be construed as uninformed. No, we’re here to make a bold prediction: Gerald Hege could win this thing.

Hege made a national name for himself by carefully crafting a tough-guy image: He painted his jail pink and assigned its inmates to chain gangs; he outfitted his deputies in combat fatigues; he raced around the county in a custom “spider” Impala outfitted with a Corvette engine, sold action figures of himself on TV and displayed the robes of reformed Klansmen in his office like beaver pelts. Hege even had his own talk show on Court TV. His charisma is as real as his criminal record.

And it’s not like Americans haven’t been down this road before. The US Constitution allows convicted felons to run for office. Marion Barry was reelected as mayor of Washington DC after being caught on video smoking crack with a prostitute and serving six months in a federal prison. Barry still serves on the district’s city council, representing Ward 8.

Clearly, there is room for guys who get caught in American politics, where there is a longstanding tradition of upwards failure.

And Hege’s message of selective law enforcement could resonate in Davidson, where 10 percent live below the poverty level and which at last estimate was 86 percent white with growing Latino, Asian and African-American populations.

We’re certainly not endorsing a convicted felon for sheriff, and we’re not saying he’s a lock for the vote — incumbent Sheriff David Grice is also a Republican, and should get the nomination.

But we’re pretty sure there’s something in this for Gerald Hege, even if it’s just a cable reality show.

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