Incumbents hold on to seats in the primary electionBy Yasmine Regester / October 13, 2017
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While all nine seats on the Greensboro City Council are up for election this year, the incumbents all managed to retain a spot on the ballot for the General Election in November. Candidates who win the General Election will serve a four-year term, instead of the usual two years.
Only 8.47 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the primary elections. Incumbent Nancy Vaughan led the mayoral race with 61.41 percent of the vote.
“I’m feeling really good. It shows that majority of voters feel we’re heading in the right direction. We’ve got a long to-do list ahead of us. I plan to continue to do the city’s business,” said Vaughan who has served as the city’s mayor since 2013.
She also touted a few city-led projects such as the Greensboro Performing Arts Center, the Greensboro-Randolph mega site, and the 2016 bond package that the council has to focus on.
Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett, Senior Pastor of Saint James Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, took the second spot with 21. 72 percent of the vote.
“I am feeling great, honored to have been chosen to possibly serve the citizens of Greensboro. I am looking forward to the race that is ahead and the work that needs to be done,” said Moffett. “My goal is to be able to bring people together in creating good jobs and opportunities to ensure a better quality of life for everyone.”
Her first time running for an elected seat, Moffett will face Vaughan in the November election.
The third challenger, local businessman John Brown, received 16.86 percent of the vote and was eliminated from the mayoral race.
The at-large race whittled down 15 candidates to the top six. Candidates will now move on to the General Election on November 7 where the top three candidates will serve on council.
The top three currently leading the at-large race are incumbents Yvonne Johnson, Marikay Abuzuaiter and Mike Barber.
Johnson led again this year with 22.43 percent of the vote. She also led the 2015 race, which ultimately earned her the title of Mayor Pro Tem.
“I’m grateful for the win. I just try to serve the people of Greensboro. My plan is to continue to talk to people and listen and be honest with folks about what we can accomplish as a city, and what may be harder to get done,” said Johnson.
Abuzuaiter took the second spot with 14.66 percent.
“I think a lot of people realize that I work hard for this community, and I’m going to continue to work hard to retain the number two spot,” said Abuzuaiter. “We’ve got a really good council doing good work in the city right now.”
Barber came in third with 11.28 percent.
“I’m glad to get through the primary and thrilled to be in the top three. I think there are five other great candidates in the race and all we can do is our very best,” said Barber adding that his campaign priorities include a commitment to a no tax increase for the next four years, a support of business investment in Greensboro and to address public safety and the uptick in crime.
This year’s election brought out a lot of new faces to the at-large race with platforms focused on social justice issues, particularly on police and community relations. Members of the Greensboro Human Relations Commission, Michelle Kennedy and Dave Wils, took the fourth and fifth spots with 11.27 percent and 7.92 percent respectively. Director of the Interactive Resource Center, Kennedy was only 6 votes shy of taking Barber’s number three spot.
Michelle Kennedy quote:
“I think that last night really shows that a lot of folks in Greensboro are looking for some alternatives in leadership on our current City Council. Our plan is to continue to run a solid grassroots campaign that meets our community where it is and have those conversations about concerns and visions for the future,” said Kennedy. “It’s hard with a field of 15, but now that we’re down to six, this is a real opportunity for everyone saying they want to see change at the local level to get out there and vote for that change.”
“It’s a mixture of feeling good, but also understanding I have my work cut out for me,” said Wils. A public school teacher, Wils said he will continue to get out his name and his platform that is focused on small businesses, affordable housing and food insecurity.
“These are the things council needs to pay more attention to,” he added.
T. Dianne Bellamy Small, who is currently a Guilford County School Board member, rounded out the top six at-large candidates with 7.03 percent of the vote. Bellamy Small is also a former city council member, having served as the District 1 representative from 2003-2013.
“I feel it’s important to have someone on the board with experience and a knowledge base on how to get things done in city government,” said Bellamy Small, adding that advocating for education doesn’t start and stop with the school board. “Part of strong advocacy for education in our public schools ties into providing not only jobs, but job training as well. We can’t bring these jobs that people need to our city without a qualified workforce,” she noted.
Incumbent Sharon Hightower, dominating the District 1 race with 78.27 percent of the votes, said that she felt good about the constituents’ vote of confidence in her.
“I plan just to continue to advocate for the concerns of my community,” said Hightower. “There are some serious issues we still need to address such as safe and affordable housing, jobs and the trust between our citizens and police. The people spoke today; I just hope more ears are open this time around.”
Political newcomer, Paula Ritter-Lipsomb, who won 13.77 percent of the vote will go on to face Hightower in the General Election.
District 2 voters pushed through two familiar faces on Tuesday. Incumbent Goldie Wells led with 53.91 percent, and former District 2 representative Jim Kee came in second with 20.61 percent of the votes. Kee narrowly beat out the third place challenger, community organizer, CJ Brinson, who received 19.61 percent of the vote.
Wells was chosen by the council in July to complete the term of former Council member Jamal Fox. Wells previously served as the District 2 representative from 2005-2009.
“I think this shows that the voters have confidence in our present council,” said Wells, who noted that experience is important. “All of us have made a commitment to work for economic development, transparency and for a better Greensboro.”
Moving forward to the general election, Wells said she wants to place a focus on voter education and getting more people to the polls.
Kee attributed his win to his focus on the need for economic development as a driver to address the district’s economic and social justice issues. He also previously served as the District 2 representative from 2009-2013.
Going for his second elected term, incumbent Justin Outling led the District 3 race with 69.06 percent of the votes, with challenger Craig Martin following with 21.77 percent.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to continue to serve. I think the results reflect an appreciation towards the approach I’ve tried to take since being on council: being both socially progressive and fiscally conservative,” said Outling.
District 4 incumbent, Nancy Hoffmann held a significant lead over challenger Gary Kenton with 67.33 percent to his 28.08 percent.
“I feel really good. I think the voters have said strongly that they like what we’ve gotten accomplished so far. We’ve done almost a decade of work in six years, so I feel this was a vote of confidence in the city,” said Hoffmann.
Candidate Andrew Belford appeared on the ballot, he withdrew from the race after the primary was scheduled.
Council incumbents led each race, except for in District 5, where council member Tony Wilkins fell to the second spot behind challenger Tammi Thurm. An administrator for the law firm Hagan Barrett and Langley, Thurm received 46 percent of the vote, while Wilkins garnered 42.6 percent.
THE GENERAL ELECTION IS NOVEMBER 7.