With most of the votes for the Durham City Council primary tallied last night, Farad Ali walked into Blue Coffee Cafe downtown, where his core campaign committee—fewer than 10 people—waited around a platter of pretzels, cheese puffs and cream-filled doughnuts. The small celebration reflected the city's poor voter turnout, which, at less than 11 percent or 12,740 ballots, mirrors that of the 2005 municipal primary election.
Still, Ali, a former banker and current vice president of the N.C. Institute of Minority Economic Development, entered the cafe to a round of applause. He quickly found his place at the center of attention, laughing with his supporters and showing the charisma that helped him win a solid third-place showing, behind incumbents Diane Catotti and Eugene Brown. His 4,891 votes—13 percent of ballots cast—were enough to propel him to the general election Nov. 6.
"It's like the Little Rascals," Ali joked. "A bunch of people coming together to make it work."
With 58 of 59 precincts counted, Councilwoman Diane Catotti led the pack of six candidates who will advance to the general election, securing 7,228 votes, or more than 20 percent of the vote. Councilman Eugene Brown finished behind Catotti, with 5,945 votes, or nearly 17 percent.
Rounding out the top six were Laney Funderburk, who ran as part of a three-person Republican slate and took home 3,750 votes; InterNeighborhood Council president David Harris with 3,376 votes; and Steve Monks, who also ran on the Republican ticket, winning 3,198 votes.
"I knew Diane would finish first," Brown said. "Ali is the darling of the creative class. Laney is the darling of the Republicans. Diane is the darling of everyone. And I'm just the darling of the old curmudgeons."
Catotti partly attributed her strong showing to her endorsements. The liberal People's Alliance and the more conservative Friends of Durham voiced strong support for Catotti. She also received an endorsement from the Independent.
The significance of the endorsements by the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People continues to decline. The committee chose to endorse just two candidates for three at-large seats: Ali and activist Victoria Peterson. She placed seventh, with 2,678 votes.
"It's just a fact that it doesn't help the credibility of the committee when one of its two candidates rank so far back in the pack," Brown said.
Harris said he will still aggressively seek the committee's endorsement, as well as support from the Democratic Party. He received an Independent endorsement.
"I have to get my name out there more," Harris said. "If more of them heard my platform—what I'm all about—I think there would be more voters to go with me."
Republican Melodie Parrish, seven-time candidate Joe Williams and political newcomer David Thompson finished in the bottom third. They won 2,617, 1,487 and 579 votes, respectively.