By Tom Feltner
With Steve Schewel as mayor, Durham will continue to be a beacon of progressive values in North Carolina and nationally. Steve knows the powers of city government. He knows how hard work builds strong coalitions and inspires action. He knows what makes Durham special and how to make sure that, as Durham changes, it doesn’t leave any of our friends and neighbors behind.
When over 400 People’s Alliance members met this summer, they overwhelming chose to endorse Steve Schewel for mayor. He faced formidable candidates--candidates, who, like Steve, offered new ideas and brought important new voices to the challenges we face. Durham owes all of these candidates a debt of gratitude. They have elevated the level of discourse. They have worked hard to tell their story. They will all continue to play an important part in charting the future of our city.
But what sets Steve apart is simple. He has built a track record of pragmatic progressivism. He knows what local government can accomplish now and continues to push that line as far as possible in service of progressive issues. When local government cannot provide the solutions we need, Steve knows how to use elected office to elevate the importance of issues like increasing the state minimum wage or creating good union jobs. He will make sure Durham sets an example where we are making progress and learns from others when we fall short.
By Nana Asante-Smith
Vernetta is one of the most brilliant and thoughtful people I have ever had the honor of knowing. I remember first encountering Vernetta in October of 2014 when I was a second-year law student. She served as one of three panelists at a school sponsored event to discuss their respective roles in the process to secure the exonerations of Henry McCollum (formerly the longest serving death row inmate) and Leon Brown, two men wrongly convicted of a brutal murder in 1984. Vernetta was Mr. McCollum’s post-conviction attorney. Her humility and humanity were awe-inspiring. She humanized the practice of law in a way that is not always as common as it should be. By the time I left the panel discussion, one thing was clear: if I ever had to fight for my life, freedom, or an opportunity, I would want Vernetta fighting for me.
Serving as an advocate for those who have been wrongfully convicted is not a commitment that many of us can make. The fortitude required and taxing hours are undeniable. Yet, even in the midst of such grueling professional demands, Vernetta has managed to also serve the Durham community as an advocate for LGBTQ, immigrant rights, and beyond as a GED tutor at TROSA and a member of Durham’s Citizens Advisory Committee.
By Tom Miller
A lot of candidates claim that they will be a voice for the voiceless in the community. In my long experience, only a few have proved it and one of them is John Rooks. He has backed his claim with the testimony and the support of folks in Durham’s public housing communities. At our PAC endorsement meeting in August, a number of these folks joined PA and spoke for John. As brand new members they could not vote, but they told the larger PA membership how John has worked for them – how he is a regular presence in the community, –how he has worked to provide their kids with the things they need for school, – how he worked to bring the police and the community together in an atmosphere of mutual respect. The speakers trusted John Rooks. The connection was personal and deeply felt. They wanted John to represent them on the city council. I was impressed. Here was a guy who really was what he claimed to be.
Over 400 people attended that meeting. The interview committee had recommended another candidate but had praised John Rooks and identified him as “one to watch.” As one of the chairs of the meeting, I had the advantage of being able to look into the faces of everyone in attendance. When Rooks’s supporters spoke, I could see our members making up their minds to support him. This is what happens at PAC endorsement meetings. People come to persuade and be persuaded. I had liked John on the occasions we had met before the endorsement meeting. During the meeting, I, too, was persuaded that he would be the best candidate for the ward 2 seat.
Real estate and development interests have been pouring money into electing Farad Ali as their mayor. Over the last few days, the Greensboro-based “NC Property Rights Fund” has sent out three major direct mail cards supporting Ali. The NC Property Rights Fund is “super pac” affiliated with the NC Realtors Association. Unlike candidate committees and regular pacs like PA PAC which operate under strict fundraising limits, super pacs have no fundraising limits. In addition to the support of the Realtors’ super Pac, the organization’s regular pac has given Ali several thousand dollars directly. Local and out of town developers have also made large gifts to Ali’s campaign. Alex Mitchell, a principal in the controversial 751 South development next to Jordan Lake in Durham County has given Ali the maximum gift of $5,200. Raleigh developer John Kane has also made large cash gifts to Ali. Kane is the developer of several large projects at North Hills. Ali’s donor list includes the names of other builders and developers. The real estate industry cares about local city council elections because the city council makes important zoning and development decisions which can mean big profits for developers. So far, the Ali campaign has raised well over one hundred thousand dollars and that does not include the money the Realtors’ super pac has spent on his behalf. According to the INDY, approximately half of the money Ali has raised has come from sources outside of Durham.