Vote! The INDY’s endorsements for races in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro | News Feature | Indy Week
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Vote! The INDY’s endorsements for races in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro 

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In the Oct. 6 election that decided key races in Cary and Raleigh, Wake County reported a paltry 11 percent voter turnout. Durham's turnout was even worse for its primary, clocking in at just over 7 percent.

C'mon, guys. We can do better.

There are crucial questions to be decided on the November ballot. This is especially true in Chapel Hill, which has seen a remarkably acrimonious campaign for mayor and Town Council. But it's also the case in Raleigh, where Eddie Woodhouse is fighting to become the City Council's only Republican, and Durham, where the retirement of two beloved incumbent Council members has opened the door for a field of smart, progressive newcomers.

On these pages, you'll find our endorsements for Durham mayor and City Council; Raleigh's District A City Council seat; Chapel Hill mayor, Town Council and ballot referenda; and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education. (You'll notice that we've not endorsed in the Carrboro mayoral and Board of Aldermen races—the incumbents are running unopposed—or in races in Hillsborough or Chatham County. This decision was designed to focus our resources on the areas we know best.)

No matter whom you support, the future of the Triangle's towns and cities rides on the people who actually show up at the polls. Be one of them.

DURHAM
Mayor

As if there were any doubt, the INDY is proud to once again endorse longstanding incumbent Bill Bell for what is expected to his final term as mayor.

Bell, who secured 86 percent of the primary vote earlier this month, will square off against distant-second-place finisher James Lyons. A Democrat who works for Time-Warner Cable, Lyons says a lot of good things about the problems of affordable housing, crime and racial profiling. He's also the founder of Keys to Life, a nonprofit dedicated to mentoring teens. That's commendable.

But it's not enough to overcome Bell's lengthy record of accomplishment.

During the mayor's eight terms in office, Durham has undergone a renaissance, especially in its downtown, which not so long ago was the kind of place you didn't walk alone after dark. Today it's teaming with nightlife and culture. This isn't to say we agree with Bell on everything: We're more sympathetic to Councilman Steve Schewel's plan to use city-owned land for affordable housing than Bell's proposal to subsidize developers, for example. Even so, the mayor deserves one last term to see his city's revitalization through.

City Council (3 seats open)

Of the six finalists for three at-large Council seats, three candidates stand out. These are the same three we endorsed last month, and they also happen to be the primary's top-three vote getters: Jillian Johnson, Charlie Reece and Steve Schewel.

The other finalists—Ricky Hart, Mike Shiflett and Robert T. Stephens—all have merit. Hart is the former chairman of the city's Human Relations Commission, where he gained insight into racial profiling within the police department and what to do about it. Stephens, a Black Lives Matter organizer who works for Teach for America, shares many of the priorities of our three endorsees on policing and affordable housing. And Shiflett, the retired owner of a medical lab equipment company who has been endorsed by the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, Friends of Durham and the Sheriff and Police Alliance, has a robust résumé of community activism.

Were their opponents not so strong, any of these candidates might have won our support. But Johnson, Reece and Schewel are all a cut above.

Schewel, the INDY's founder and longtime publisher, has spent his first four years on Council becoming an outspoken affordable-housing advocate. While Schewel generally thinks the city is moving in the right direction—we tend to agree—he points out that this is no time for Durham to rest on its laurels. He has intriguing ideas about reducing landfill waste, is an ardent supporter of light rail and understands that the city lags on things like trails and bike lanes.

Johnson, the director of the Southern Vision Alliance, which facilitates youth-centered organizations that seek to promote social and education justice, gender equity and LGBTQ rights, has been a tireless advocate for Durham's lower-income residents. She also wants to improve relations between the community and the police and deprioritize marijuana enforcement.

Reece, the recently appointed treasurer of the N.C. Democratic Party, will be a much-needed voice for affordable housing and what he calls community policing, by which he means cops walking beats instead of only responding to calls.

All three deserve election to the City Council.

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