PA favors Davis, Moffitt for council
Rounding out this year’s big-three endorsements, People’s Alliance activists say they’re supporting Ward 2 candidate Eddie Davis and Ward 3 incumbent Don Moffitt in the upcoming City Council election.
The group – like the Friends of Durham and the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People – is also supporting Mayor Bill Bell’s re-election bid and the unopposed candidacy of council Ward 1 incumbent Cora Cole-McFadden.
Davis got the Ward 2 nod not only because his position on major issues squares with the group’s but because he impressed with his “capacity for patience and … ability to listen to and absorb what stakeholders have to say,” PA spokesman Tom Miller said.
On the issues, Davis opposes the controversial 751 South development and as a former Durham Public Schools teacher is skeptical of charter schools, Miller and other alliance leaders said.
He is running in Ward 2 against candidates Omar Beasley, Franklin Hanes and Del Mattioli.
Beasley in running for county commissioner last year “has proven himself a tough campaigner” but Davis because of his issue stands and “long commitment to public service” received the nod.
Mattioli favors 751 South and charter schools, stands that are at odds with the PA’s.
Like another big-three political group, the Friends of Durham, PA leaders said Hanes seems focused mostly on “the needs of north-central Durham.”
In Ward 3, Moffitt received the endorsement because he seems to combine “the savvy of the Chamber of Commerce and the progressive’s desire for economic justice,” alliance leaders said.
His opponent, former County Commissioner Pam Karriker, “is not aligned with the People’s Alliance on the 751 South issue, charter schools and marriage equality,” they said.
Karriker favors 751 South; Moffitt has opposed the project.
The former commissioner also supported passage in 2012 of the state’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. In that year’s referendum 69 percent of the Durham County residents who voted opposed the amendment. But Durham was an outlier in that regard: The amendment passed with 61 percent of the statewide vote.
Moffitt told the PA he supports the right of gays to marry “absolutely and without reservation.”
The alliance asked the council candidates about charter schools in part because the council voted last year to provide business incentives for the renovation of the former Y.E. Smith School in North-East Central Durham. The building is now home to the Maureen Joy Charter School.
Moffitt and Karriker both supported the incentive decision as a move to help North-East Central Durham. But while Karriker told the PA she “generally support[s] charter schools that are sensitive to the needs of the community,” Moffitt said he doesn’t because of their tendency to “siphon away [from DPS] students with engaged families.”
Miller acknowledged that the city government doesn’t ordinarily deal with charter schools. But the PA asked about them because of the Y.E. Smith example and because local office can be a steppingstone to a place in state government.
He noted that two former councilman, Floyd McKissick and Mike Woodard, are now Durham’s state senators and that a former mayor of Charlotte, Pat McCrory, is the state’s governor.
So when it comes to evaluating candidates, “we want to know where they stand on our core issues from the beginning,” Miller said. “If we’re going to launch a rocket, we want to know who the astronauts are in the capsule.”
The Friends of Durham and the Durham Committee announced their endorsements earlier this month and are supporting Beasley for Ward 2 and Karriker for Ward 3.
Bell’s candidacy got the PA’s backing over challengers Michael Valentine and Sylvester Williams.
PA leaders accepted Bell’s explanation for having tried this year to engineer a compromise on 751 South as “trying to do what he thought was best in an adverse political situation,” spokesman Milo Pyne said.
Pyne was alluding to the state’s intervention in the dispute. McCrory recently signed a bill that directs the city to provide water and sewer service to the project if its developers request service by Oct. 22.
As for Valentine, the PA thought “enthusiasm is no substitute for” Bell’s experience. And Williams has shown “a lack of understanding or sympathy for the rights of” gays.
Voters are going to the polls on Oct. 8 to winnow via a primary the Ward 2 and mayoral fields to two candidates each. The general election will follow on Nov. 5.