Council election welcomes two new representativesBy Yasmine Regester / November 10, 2017
Political newcomers Tammi Thurm and Michelle Kennedy both unseated incumbents in Tuesday’s Greensboro municipal elections. Voter turnout was at 14.77 percent with 44,202 total ballots cast.
One of the bigger surprises of the night was Thurm ousting incumbent Tony Wilkins for the District 5 seat. Thurm received 54.96 percent of the votes to Wilkins’ 44.87 percent. Thurm also finished first in the primaries, where Wilkins has served as the District 5 representative since 2012.
“People were ready for a change,” said Thurm, a local law firm administrator. “I’m thrilled to be a part of that change. I think people want to be represented by people who care about them — no matter the political party.”
Council winners say that a four-year term will give the new candidates some time to learn the ropes, as well as give the board more time to accomplish city projects and initiatives.
“I’m sure there’s a learning curve, but I’ll be with some really good people to help me,” Thurm added.
Kennedy will join incumbents Yvonne Johnson and Marikay Abuzuaiter as part of the three at-large seats on council that represent all Greensboro residents.
Kennedy rounded out the top three at-large candidates with 16.45 percent of the vote, knocking out incumbent Mike Barber, who received 16.33 percent of the vote. Barber finished 0.1 percent shy of the third place spot and could request a recount. Candidate Dave Wils finished in fifth with 10.95 percent, followed by T. Dianne Bellamy Small with 9.52 percent of the vote.
“It feels amazing,” said Kennedy. “The citizens said they were ready for new voices to address our most pressing issues and they came out with their votes.”
As a member of both the city’s Human Relations Commission and the Police Community Review Board, Kennedy is no stranger to working with the council. Her position as the executive director of the Interactive Resource Center, Greensboro’s homeless day shelter, focused her campaign on the issues of homelessness and poverty.“We’re only as strong as our weakest link. The work we do to uplift those in need benefits us all. So I’m excited to take my place at the table,” said Kennedy.
Johnson finished first in the at-large race with 26.58 percent of the vote. The at-large winner with the most votes typically receives the title of Mayor Pro Tem, a title Johnson has held since 2011. This can also be determined by a vote of the council.
“I’m praying that we can all work well together and get the projects accomplished that we have on the table,” said Johnson, who listed comprehensive job training for manufacturing and welding as a focus.
Abuzuaiter took second place in the at-large race, winning her fourth term on council.
“I feel really honored the citizens have chosen me again,” said Abuzuaiter. She lists poverty as one of the city’s biggest challenges in the next four years.
If Kennedy’s win stands, it would be the first time that eight out of nine council seats will be held by women, with the exception of District 3 incumbent Justin Outling, who is an African American male.
Outling secured the District 3 seat over challenger Craig Martin with 72.57 percent to 26.99 percent of the vote. In a district that has voted heavily Republican in past elections, Outling said he is proud to be the first Democrat to represent District 3, and the first person of color to represent a district where people of color are not the majority. He has represented the district since he was appointed to fill an unexpired term in 2015.“I feel wonderful. People are responding to the change I’ve helped lead. They are looking at my work rather than my political party,” said Outling, who said he wants to continue to work on socially progressive policies, such as the body cam footage, and address city efficiency with a fiscally conservative approach.
Incumbent Nancy Vaughan was declared Greensboro’s Mayor for a third term after receiving 67.05 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election. Her opponent, Rev. Diane Moffett garnered 31.75 percent of the vote.
“I’m very pleased the voters have chosen me. We’re going to be able to move forward with the initiatives that we’ve already started,” said Vaughan who listed plans to reduce poverty and increase jobs as part of the council’s agenda moving forward.
District 1 incumbent Sharon Hightower retained her seat with an overwhelming 84.48 percent of the vote over challenger Paula Ritter-Lipscomb, who garnered 15.14 percent of the vote. Hightower is going into her third term as the District 1 representative.
“I’m looking forward to joining forces with people who have passion about the same issues that I do,” said Hightower. “We’ve created some jobs, but now we need to start attacking poverty and homelessness concerns,” said Hightower who added that police accountability and government transparency are still priorities for her.Incumbent Goldie Wells will continue to represent District 2 as she retained the seat with 71.15 percent of the votes. Her opponent Jim Kee, a conservative developer, received 27.96 percent of the votes.
Two precincts in District 2, Precinct G04 — Genesis Baptist Church on Bessemer Avenue, and G05 — Peeler Recreation Center on Sykes Avenue both lost power on Election Day. Guilford County Board of Elections officials indicate that service to the polling sites was never interrupted. Voters were able to cast their ballots with the voting machines operating on battery power until generators and lights were delivered to the polling sites by the city’s transportation department and the Greensboro Fire Department.
Wells was appointed by the council in July 2017 to fill the unexpired term of Jamal Fox, and ultimately ran for the seat. She previously served as the District 2 rep from 2005-2009, and is now preparing to serve her first full term in nearly eight years.
“I’m glad that I have the victory. I really want to serve and do all I can for District 2 and the city as a whole,” said Wells. She said she thinks city council should serve as an example of how people from different walks of life can work together and make the city better.
District 4 voters reelected incumbent Nancy Hoffmann, who received 67.07 percent of the vote over challenger Gary Kenton, who received 32.50 percent of the vote.