CAMDEN — District Attorney Andrew Womble announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election next year but instead run for Superior Court judge in the 1st Judicial District.
Womble, who is in his third term as district attorney for the 1st Prosecutorial District, plans to seek the judgeship currently held by Superior Court Judge J.C. Cole, who is retiring at the end of this month.
Womble, a registered Republican, made the announcement during the annual convention of the Camden County Republican Party. In 2014, he became the first Republican ever elected district attorney for the 1st Prosecutorial District, which includes Pasquotank, Camden, Currituck, Dare, Perquimans, Chowan and Gates counties.
“I want to continue that service,” he told Camden Republicans Tuesday. “I’d ask for your support.”
Speaking after the convention, Womble praised Cole for his service to northeastern North Carolina.
“I’d like to thank J.C. Cole for his many years of service to the 1st Judicial District, as a District Court judge and a Superior Court judge,” Womble said.
He continued by saying that as Superior Court judge he hopes to maintain the same high standards set by Cole.
“For the past 17 years I have served the citizens of this district, as both chief public defender and as elected district attorney,” Womble said. “I want to continue that service as the next Superior Court judge and I hope I can continue the high level of integrity, professionalism, dedication and honesty that has exemplified Judge Cole’s tenure as a Superior Court judge.”
Cole, a Democrat, has already endorsed District Court Judge Eula Reid to replace him when he retires March 31. Cole said he recommended Reid to Gov. Roy Cooper, who will choose someone to complete Cole’s current term which doesn’t expire until next year.
Reid said this week she has written a letter to Cooper, formally expressing her interest in being appointed to Cole’s seat. Cooper’s office hasn’t said when the governor will announce his appointment to the seat.
Prior to becoming district attorney, Womble served several years as the district’s chief public defender. Then in 2013, following the death of then District Attorney Frank Parrish, then Republican Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Womble to fulfill the Parrish’s unexpired term, which ended in December 2014.
Womble defeated Democrat Nancy Lamb in November 2014 to win a four-year term and then ran unopposed in the November 2018 election.
Womble wasn’t the only member of the District Attorney’s Office announcing a bid for office next year. Jeff Cruden, an assistant district attorney for Dare County since 2015, said he plans to run to succeed Womble.
Cruden, who has nearly 30 years experience as an attorney, returned to northeastern North Carolina in 2015 to work for Womble.
Standing before the audience inside Camden’s modern courthouse, Cruden turned to his right to motion toward Camden’s Historic Courthouse, which is located next door. That’s where in the early 1990s he tried his first jury trial, he said.
“I love my job,” Cruden said. “I love going to work everyday and putting bad guys away.”
Cruden’s background includes several years prosecuting cases involving special victims and dangerous offenders.
Frank Yandle, chairman of the Camden Republican Party, followed Womble and Cruden to the podium. He expressed surprise at their announcements.
“Two announcements there,” he said, laughing. “That’s great.”
Also in attendance and speaking briefly was Marion R. Warren, a former district court judge for the 13th Judicial District, which include Bladen, Brunswick and Columbus counties. Warren currently serves as associate dean and professor at Regent University School of Law in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark D. Martin, who is dean of Regent’s law school, also was scheduled to attend but was unable.
Camden Republicans also had a chance at Tuesday’s convention to meet James Midgett, the county’s new clerk of Superior Court.
Midgett, who worked in Currituck County for 20 years as a law enforcement officer, was appointed by Chief Resident Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett in late December to fill the vacancy created by Democrat Paula Harrison’s retirement.
Midgett has said previously he intends to run for a four-year term as Camden Clerk of Court in the 2022 election.