Chapel Hill is in its first year holding voter-owned elections for council and mayoral contests. This voluntary program includes public financing with limits on campaign contributions, and added levels of accountability and transparency. Only two candidates have taken the plunge: Mark Kleinschmidt and Penny Rich.
Add to the mix Citizens For Responsible Government, composed of some top developers and longtime players in Chapel Hill—Omar Zinn, Phil Post and Bruce Ballentine. The group has stated it "expects to play a significant role" in Chapel Hill's elections. Where will they put their dollars?
In the mayoral race, a trio of conservatives—Augustus Cho, Kevin Wolff and Matt Czajkowski—will need to figure out how not to divide the right-wing vote in order to beat progressive Town Councilman Kleinschmidt, one of five openly gay North Carolinians to be elected in state history.
Wolff, a Republican, is a perennial mayoral candidate long critical of town government. First-term Town Councilman Czajkowski, who loaned himself more than $17,000 for his 2007 council campaign, is best known for displaying his bicycle helmet on the Council dais, perhaps to distract us from his diatribes against the homeless on Franklin Street. Cho ran in the Republican primary for Fourth Congressional District, losing to B.J. Lawson. He penned an opinion column in the Chapel Hill News asking for compassion for, yet stereotyping, Asian drivers. Was he seeking forgiveness for his 2007 citation for impeding traffic?
Will he or won't he? We asked the question several months ago, and we have our answer: Raleigh incumbent Charles Meeker is seeking a fifth term. He faces data administrator Mark Enloe and Anders Skaar, missions director of Christian Library International, a prison ministry.
In Durham, longtime Democratic incumbent Mayor Bill Bell, who, in 2007, fended off Thomas Stith in a bitter contest, faces Republican Steve Williams, a minister with Monument of Faith Church.
In Pittsboro, Mayor Randy Voller is running; he will face at least one challenger, William Crawford.
Incumbent mayors Mark Chilton of Carrboro and Tom Stevens of Hillsborough are running unopposed.
The most interesting down-ballot races are those for Wake County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro school boards.
To quote Tyra Banks in America's Next Top Model, "There are four candidates before me, but I have only three pictures in my hand": There are three seats open in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board race, with four people running: UNC education professor J.M. (Joe) Green, consultant Gary Wallach, who also serves on the Chapel Hill Human Relations Advisory Board, MaryAnne Gucciardi, a development director, and school volunteer Michelle Brownstein.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your scorecards: In the Wake County School Board race, there are three candidates for District 1, four for District 2, three in District 7 and three in District 9. Also playing an influential role is the Wake Schools Community Alliance. This critic of diversity policies, including busing, is composed of several Republican elected officials, and is endorsing several candidates.
District 1: The WSCA has endorsed former Wake Forest Town Commissioner Chris Malone, who in successive elections in 2004 and 2005 lost a bid for county commissioner and then his local office. He's a Republican conservative and strongly anti-diversity. Rita Rakestraw, a Democrat active on Knightdale community issues, is pro-diversity. A third candidate, busing critic Debbie Vair, a PTA leader who lives in Wake Forest, is expected to vie with Malone for votes.
District 2: Incumbent Horace Tart has three challengers, none of whom has the WSCA endorsement yet: Republican Cathy Truitt, a retired Johnston County principal who may not be sufficiently anti-busing for the WSCA's tastes; Libertarian Chris Augustine and John Tedesco, chief development officer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle.
District 7: Deborah Prickett, who works in the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, is a registered independent backed by the WSCA Rounding out the field is financial planner Gerald Ballan and grants manager Karen Simon.
District 9: Lois Nixon, director of Wake County Keep America Beautiful and a certified environmental educator, is running against Republican Ray Martin, a Chapel Hill technology education teacher, and Debra Goldman, who is endorsed by the WSCA.
The most interesting town and city council races are in Raleigh, Cary and Durham, because someone is, well, going to lose. Hey man, this is the real world. Not everyone gets a trophy.
Raleigh's at-large race is shaping up to be a five-way contest: Russ Stephenson, a Democrat, is the progressive incumbent; Ricky Sartain, a Democrat, wants to be the progressive challenger; Mary-Anne Baldwin, a Democrat, is in the middle; and Champ Claris, a Republican, is a Realtor aligning with the developers. Artist Bill Shakespeare, who was born Bill Matthews but opted to change his surname to something more famous, rounds out the list.
The other contested city council races are District D, in which architect Ted Van Dyk will try to dethrone incumbent Thomas Crowder, and District C, in which Charles Reisinger, who works as a radio technician, James West, and investments manager Anthony Integlia face off.
In Cary, the contest is in District A, where Cynthia Sinkez and Jennifer Robinson are vying for the seat.
In Durham, three candidates hope to upend incumbent Howard Clement III, who is seeking his seventh term: Durham County Libertarian Party Chairman Matt Drew, hair stylist Sandra Howell and Sylvester Williams, an "end-time preacher" and pastor at the Assembly at Durham Christian Center on the city's east side.
Ward I incumbent Cora Cole-McFadden is pitted against Donald Hughes, who, has publicly sided with developers over the Jordan Lake survey.
Now for the less-contentious contests: In the Chapel Hill Town Council election, four people are running for as many seats: Penny Rich, who served on the Orange County Water and Sewer Authority, is trying again after losing her 2007 council bid. She faces Matt Pohlman, who works for investment advisers Franklin Street Partners; mortgage lender Jon DeHart; and Gene Pease, who is president of the Chapel Hill Public Library board.
In Carrboro, where everyone seems to get along, three candidates are running for three Board of Aldermen seats, including incumbents Jacquie Gist and Randee Haven-O'Donnell and newcomer and community activist Sammy Slade.
Now that conservative Philip Isley isn't running for Raleigh City Council District E, well, step right up Bonner Gaylord, the North Hills general manager who serves on the Raleigh planning commission.
Durham City Councilman Mike Woodard is running unopposed—so far—in Ward III.
Correction (July 17, 2009): Charles Reisnger was previously but is not currently employed at Food Lion.