Wagstaff still suspended, Durham Committee chair says
Jackie Wagstaff’s off-again, on-again leadership of the political arm of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People is off again, the group’s chairman says.
Contrary to earlier reports, a decision to table a recommendation from the Durham Committee’s executive committee fell short of reinstating Wagstaff, Durham Committee Chairman Randal Rogers said Thursday.
A recommendation that she be censured and suspended remains pending “until the matter is voted off the table” by the membership, he said.
Rogers added that the Durham Committee candidate-endorsement process for this year’s mayoral and City Council election is moving forward. Members will hold their endorsement meeting Saturday at St. Joseph AME Church, 2521 Fayetteville St., at 9 a.m.
“We will proceed with unity [and] strength, peacefully, constructively and optimistically to serve the community of Durham,” Rogers said.
Wagstaff’s role in the process has been up in the air since July 27, when the group’s executive committee suspended her as chairwoman of the political arm pending a decision of the membership.
The move followed complaints of “insubordinate, uncollaborative, extremely impolite and inappropriate” behavior.
The former school board and City Council member appeared to have been reinstated on Aug. 1, when there was a vote to table the executive committee’s recommendation.
Since then, there’s been debate about what it meant to table the recommendation. Some contend members intended to shelve it entirely; others say they only deferred a decision. Rogers’ email reflected the deferral interpretation.
The suspension left it to the political arm’s vice chairman, state Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, to lead candidate interviews that unfolded from July 29 to July 31.
Rogers’ email means McKissick is back in charge as the group prepares for the Saturday endorsement debate. McKissick had previously taken the members’ decision to mean Wagstaff had been reinstated.
“It is an interesting situation I find myself in,” McKissick said. “It’s as if we’re playing musical chairs. The problem is I feel like I’m on the Titanic.”
McKissick has been clear throughout that he has no real desire to lead the political arm, given the press of business from state government and his private-sector law practice.
But given the uncertainty, “we’ll have to take it a step at a time and a day at a time,” he said on Thursday. “It would be wonderful to put all this behind us as expeditiously as possible.”
The role of the Durham Committee’s political arm during a local election is to screen candidates, recommend endorsements to the group’s members, organize poll workers and arrange creation of advertising that touts the endorsed slate.
The committee is moving quickly because there will be a primary for mayor and Ward 2 council candidates on Oct. 8.
Active campaigning is already underway, the window for posting roadside advertising for the candidates involved in the primary having opened this week.
Another of Durham’s big-three political groups, the People’s Alliance, announced that it will interview candidates on Saturday, hold a meet-and-greet with them on Aug. 21 and conduct its endorsement vote on Aug. 27.
The alliance’s meet-and-greet will take place at Motorco Garage, 723 Geer St., at 5:30 p.m. For the endorsement vote, members will gather at St. Luke’s Church, 1737 Hillandale Road, at 6:30 p.m.
The remaining big-three group, the Friends of Durham, is a smaller organization relative to the others and typically says little about its election preparations until it’s decided on endorsements.