Durham voters will choose a mayor and three council members and weigh in on a $110 million bond package on Nov. 8. Two candidates for each seat emerged from the October primary, which was decided by the dismal turnout of less than 11 percent of the Bull City's voters.
In the mayoral race, incumbent Bill Bell--whom we continue to endorse for a third two-year term--emerged from the primary with a resounding 88 percent of the vote in a three-way race. Bell faces second-time challenger and political newcomer Jonathan Alston in the general election. Alston beat fellow challenger and incumbent school board member Jackie Wagstaff to win the chance to face Bell; challenger Vincent Brown withdrew prior to the primary after press reports about his criminal record, though his name still appeared on the ballot. As we said in our primary endorsement, Bell has been a strong leader who's been careful to balance the needs of inner-city neighborhoods with big, downtown redevelopment efforts.
In Durham City Council Ward 1, we renew our support for incumbent Cora Cole-McFadden, who is seeking a well-deserved second term backed by 72 percent of the vote in the primary. She faces Victoria Peterson, a conservative challenger who has sought elected office several times unsuccessfully. Cole-McFadden has consistently supported efforts to manage growth effectively and has used her inside knowledge of City Hall--she was the director of the city's equal opportunity and equity assurance program--to solve problems.
In Ward 2 and Ward 3, the Independent encourages Durham voters to replace two incumbents with new leaders who will bring fresh new perspectives, thoughtful ideas and a range of valuable experience to the table.
In Ward 2, challenger Regina Stanley-King is making her first bid for public office. Garnering 22.4 percent of the primary vote, Stanley-King has tackled her campaign with old-fashioned canvassing and convincing arguments about why she offers a supportable alternative to 23-year incumbent Howard Clement. Clement, who earned 55.3 percent of the vote in the four-way primary, deserves much credit for his long service on the council, but has brought few initiatives to his work in recent years while rubber-stamping most development. We believe Stanley-King offers a progressive alternative, and will make good use on the council of her experience as a union leader, foster parent and founder of an informal mentoring program for girls and women she runs out of her living room.
In Ward 3, challenger Mike Woodard is a rare first-time candidate with a resume that promises to make him a formidable elected official and leader. With a background in neighborhood issues and experience in the business community, Woodard offers a sterling alternative to John Best Jr., a one-term incumbent whose tenure has been marked by yes votes for any development proposal and dirty public battles over his private life, including a jail stint for failure to pay child support. Woodard made a strong showing in the primary, beating Best by an almost 2-to-1 margin with 52 percent of the vote.
Durham voters will also be asked to endorse a $110 million bond referendum package, in eight separate proposals designed to fund more than 80 different projects.
The Independent endorses the bond package, which includes: