Incumbents sweep electionsBy Yasmine Regester / November 6, 2015
The people have voted, the ballots have been counted, and Greensboro wants two more years of Vaughan, and the rest of the Greensboro City Council ncumbents as well.
Incumbent Mayor Nancy Vaughan beat challenger and political newcomer, Devin King in Tuesday’s 2015 Greensboro City Municipal Elections, winning 87.73 percent of the votes. King received 10.88 percent of the votes.
Going into her second term, Vaughan has beaten the “one-term mayor” curse that had seemed to settle on the mayors following Keith Holliday’s departure in 2007.
“I think this reaffirms the job that council has been doing,” said Vaughan. “We have a great city. We should celebrate our successes.”
Vaughan noted that having the same council moving forward will help for a seamless transition into the next council session.
Voter turnout was low with only 11 percent or 24,434 votes being cast out of 215,713 registered voters. Vaughan stated that usually people vote in large numbers when they are unhappy with their elected representatives.
“Looks like it’s going to be the same council. It’s great for the residents. We have some initiatives we need to continue working on, like wage growth and police accountability, and others that we have to get going,” said Vaughan.
Voters were able to cast ballots for Mayor, three at-large candidates and a district representative. The at-large seats go to the top three vote-getters out of six candidates running for office.Incumbent Yvonne Johnson led the top three candidates with 30.36 percent of the vote, followed by two more incumbents, Marikay Abuzuaiter with 25.98 percent and Mike Barber with 24.38 percent.
Political newcomers Marc Ridgill pulled 9.33 percent of the votes, Sylvine Hill received 5.47 percent and Brian Hoss got 3.88 percent.
Johnson said the first thing she wants to focus on in her new term is establishing job training centers across the city, something she stressed during her campaign.
“This shows that the people are satisfied with their elected representatives. We’ve done a good job, but next year we will be even better,” said Johnson. “We’re going to put people back to work.”
Going into her third term, Abuzuaiter is focused on eliminating food deserts in the city and promoting the Family Justice Center, a city and Guilford County collaborative safety initiative.
“This is a vote of confidence for our current council. It shows that this council is doing a lot of good work,” said Abuzuaiter.
The District 1 race turned into a rematch between incumbent Sharon Hightower and T. Dianne Bellamy-Small, who lost the seat to Hightower in 2013 by 12 votes. This time Hightower took 63.70 percent of the votes over Bellamy-Small’s 36 percent.
“I’m engaged, I know how policy works. First you have to know what the people want, without the people you have no seat,” said Hightower. “The votes turned out because I showed the citizens what I’m made of – perseverance and dedication to bring focus to the needs of East Greensboro.”
Jamal Fox held on to the District 2 seat over challenger and community advocate, Thessa Pickett. Fox took 88.03 percent of the votes, over Pickett’s 11.48 percent.
“It’s not a win for me. It’s a win for the community. It says they are pleased with the progress we’ve made together,” said Fox who is going into his second term. “Greensboro is now becoming what everyone already said we were, progressive. Mindsets here are changing.”
Changing mindsets are evident in this election with a Democrat taking the seat in a district that traditionally votes Republican. Justin Outling kept his seat as the District 3 representative, winning his first election with 64.82 percent of the votes. His challenger, Kurt Collins received 34.78 percent.
Outling took over the District 3 seat in July when Zack Matheny left to take the position of President of Downtown Greensboro, Inc.
“I’m very excited and humbled by the support I’ve received from the constituents in District 3. There’s a recognition that it takes time to reflect real change,” said Outling who added one of his goals is to advocate for the repair and rehab of downtown’s commercial buildings as well as police accountability.
He is also working on developing a position in the City Manager’s office that would help streamline services for small businesses.
“I want to make our services for starting a small business more user friendly,” said Outling.
District 4 candidate, Nancy Hoffmann and District 5 candidate, Tony Wilkins each ran unopposed and kept their respective seats.
Voters also approved a measure that extends council member terms from two to four years by a vote of 58.26 percent to 41.64 percent. Four year terms are not out of the norm. Approximately 385 out of North Carolina’s 553 cities and towns have four year terms for elected officials. The change will take effect with the 2017 elections.
“The most important thing is that it was put on the ballot and the people got a chance to vote. It wasn’t someone in Raleigh telling the citizens of Greensboro what to do,” said Abuzuaiter.