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Since there is a runoff for a statewide office, Labor Commissioner, all counties in North Carolina will hold elections this month. In addition, some counties such as Durham and Orange have local runoff contests.

The Indy endorses in runoffs 

Early voting ends this Saturday; Election Day is Tuesday

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Wait, didn't I just vote? Yes, you did, and thanks to democracy you can do so again. In some primary races, no candidate received more than 40 percent of the vote, which allows candidates in those contests to request a runoff election, although they're not required to.

Since there is a runoff for a statewide office, Labor Commissioner, all counties in North Carolina will hold elections this month. In addition, some counties such as Durham and Orange have local runoff contests.

  • Early voting runs from Thursday, June 5, to Saturday, June 21.
  • Absentee ballots must be received by Tuesday, June 17, at 5 p.m.
  • Election Day is Tuesday, June 24, from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Here is the contact information to find polling locations for early voting and Election Day.

Chatham County: 545-8500, www.chathamnc.org/Index.aspx?page=110
Durham County: 560-0700, www.co.durham.nc.us/departments/elec
Orange County: 245-2350, www.co.orange.nc.us/elect/location.asp
Wake County: 856-6240, www.wakegov.com/elections

Here are our recommendations for the contested runoff elections. Click the candidate's name to read their questionnaire.

Durham Public Schools Board of Education

While Durham public schools aren't experiencing the massive influx of students their Wake County counterparts are, the district is growing, particularly to the south. Those pressures, coupled with perennial concerns of funding, redistricting and the achievement gap, combine to make the next four years pivotal ones for public education in Durham.

In a tight four-person primary, voters picked Jonathan Alston and Leigh Bordley as the top vote-getters for the at-large seat, with 36 percent and 34 percent of the vote, respectively.

We again endorse Leigh Bordley. Her experience as executive director of Partners for Youth, a nonprofit that tutors and supports low-income minority students, has primed her to tackle the important questions facing the board.

Her focus on curbing the dropout rate, helping at-risk children—including those whose native language is not English—and ensuring the equity of resources among schools is impressive.

Bordley's three children attend Durham public schools, and she is sensitive to the issues of overcrowding and redistricting. While she supports the current magnet school plan, and two of her children have attended Durham School of the Arts, Bordley says the board must proceed carefully when considering adding more magnet schools. There is the potential that additional magnet schools could create a closed system, which would be difficult for many students to enter.

In addition, Bordley's campaign platform includes ensuring schools stay racially and economically diverse and supporting neighborhood schools. She also says she would lobby the legislature to raise the compulsory school attendance age to 18 from 16.

Alston did not return an Indy questionnaire.

This seat is currently held by Steve Schewel, president of Carolina Independent Publications, which owns the Independent.

Labor Commissioner

If the four-way contest for Labor Commissioner were a horse race, it would have been a photo finish. After the ballots were tallied, two contenders emerged for the runoff: Mary Fant Donnan, who received 27.5 percent of the vote, and John Brooks, who received 24.3 percent. (Third-place finisher Ty Richardson missed the cutoff by 2,092 votes, with Robin Anderson not far behind him.)

We originally endorsed Mary Fant Donnan, and we still do. She also has the endorsement—importantly in this case—of the state AFL-CIO. The winner will seek to oust incumbent Republican Cherie Berry, who is unopposed in the GOP primary.

Donnan brings a strong record of public service into the campaign. She served for seven years as an aide and director of policy research for the highly regarded former Labor Commissioner Harry Payne, who's endorsed her as well. In that role, she was responsible for launching the state's innovative program of individual development accounts that help low-income workers save to buy a home, continue their education or start a small business.

When Payne stepped down in 2000, Donnan became a program officer for the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem, which supports many of the state's progressive nonprofit organizations. She's worked there with community economic development organizations to tackle a broad range of challenges including affordable housing, health care and workforce training. As commissioner, she promises to extend that work and be an energetic spokesperson for community needs while also stepping up enforcement of the state's existing workplace health and safety laws.

John C. Brooks, a lawyer, was the labor commissioner from 1977-93. He lost to Payne in the '92 Democratic primary after the tragic Hamlet chicken plant fire in which 25 workers were killed; Brooks' labor department never inspected the plant in the 11 years it operated.

Orange County Commissioner

The District 2 Orange County Commissioners runoff will effectively determine which Democrat will represent the area outside of Chapel Hill and Carrboro; no Republican filed for office.

Steve Yuhasz was the top-vote getter in the primary, with 37 percent of ballots cast; Leo Allison came in second with 27 percent, with his greatest support coming from the Hillsborough, Coles Store and Cheeks precincts. The difference between the two candidates was 1,036 votes.

We endorse Leo Allison, a retired IBM employee from Efland. Of the four candidates seeking this seat, Allison has the most public service experience in Orange County. He served for six years each on the county's planning board, social services board, human rights and relations board, and the ABC board. He was also the first non-attorney to chair the board of Legal Aid of North Carolina. Allison is best known for his work on behalf of the county's senior center and on issues affecting senior citizens. Allison says his top three priorities are to grow the commercial tax base, relieve pressure on residential property taxpayers, and establish a long-term water conservation plan. He also says he wants to develop jobs, protect family farms and improve the graduation rate in all county schools through equitable funding.

Yuhasz is a land surveyor from Hillsborough who has served on the county planning board for six years and the economic development commission for three. He says he would advocate for a comprehensive land use plan that manages "the reality of coming growth" in a way that respects the property rights of rural landowners.

Orange County Board of Elections Director Tracy Reams estimates the election will cost the county between $75,000 and $78,000. But a second primary election would be held in Orange County even if Allison had not requested a runoff. The other item on the ballot will be a runoff for Democratic candidate for labor commissioner.

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