People’s Alliance releases Durham endorsement slate

Apr. 04, 2014 @ 06:49 PM

The Durham People’s Alliance wants some new faces in the school board, but favored incumbents in other contested races in the upcoming May primary election.

The People’s Alliance, one of the city’s big-three political groups, on Friday released its slate of endorsements generated by a lengthy debate the night before.

“We had a long one last night,” said Tom Miller, a member of PA involved in the endorsement process. “So many races to discuss and a huge turnout. Some discussions were tough as many of the candidates are longtime PA members.”

The meeting Thursday night at St. Luke’s Church drew more than 100 members of the organization to debate candidates for sheriff, district attorney, school board, General Assembly and court seats at all levels.

The group’s endorsements included:

-         Mike Lee for the District 1 seat on the Durham Public Schools Board of Education, a slot now occupied by incumbent Omega Curtis Parker. PA approved of Lee’s desire for an open superintendent search, concerns about high-stakes testing and drive to fight against perceived attacks by the General Assembly against public education.

-         Sendolo Diaminah for the District 2 DPS seat held by Fredrick Davis, who decided not to run again. PA considers Diaminah thoughtful and articulate, with an eye toward issues related to housing, poverty and teacher rights. The group thinks he can bring a fresh point of view to closing the achievement gap for children of color and those struggling with poverty.

-         Matt Sears for the District 3 DPS seat held by Nancy Cox. Like Davis, she opted against seeking re-election. PA described him as patient and respectful, and said his broad base of knowledge – particularly as a former teacher at Hillside High School – positioned him to help the board understand the instructional needs of students and teachers.

-         Natalie Beyer for the District 4 seat, although she’s running without opposition. PA credits her with thoughtful consideration on contentious topics and describes her as “a tireless worker who carefully informs herself on all of the issues.”

-         Mike Andrews for Durham County Sheriff, a job he was appointed to just a couple of years ago after the retirement of Worth Hill. PA called him “a fine law enforcement official with a solid record of law enforcement management.”

The group called for voters to keep Pat Evans, Doretta Walker and Nancy Gordon on the Durham District Court bench.

However, although PA praised Gordon’s knowledge of the law, hard work and dedication, their endorsement came with some caveats.

“Judge Gordon’s accomplishments must be balanced against criticism from attorneys and litigants that she is often impatient and that she inappropriately upbraids attorneys and others in the courtroom,” the group wrote in its endorsement. “Judge Gordon’s low scores in the recent judicial evaluations conducted by the NC Bar Association are of grave concern to our members and we pressed her about this in our interview with her.”

Gordon told PA that she would work to correct her shortcomings.

In the race for Durham District Attorney, PA endorsed Roger Echols, a prosecutor who works in that office for Judge Leon Stanback. PA members indicated that they approved of his stance against the death penalty, as well as his courtesy and honesty.

For the General Assembly, the alliance endorsed incumbent state senators Floyd McKissick and Mike Woodard, both Democrats who have served on the local City Council. Neither has opposition in May, but Woodard faces a Republican challenger in November.

In the state House, incumbents Larry Hall, Paul Leubke and H.M. (Mickey) Michaux all earned endorsements for re-election. The group also wants to see Graig Meyer elected for a full-term. He was appointed to fill the seat vacated last year by Valerie Foushee.

For the state Supreme Court, only one seat is on the May ballot. The alliance recommended incumbent Justice Robin Hudson for re-election over two conservative challengers.

Early voting for the May 6 primary starts April 24.

Follow on Twitter at @HS_WesPlatt. Connect on Facebook at facebook.com/wesplattheraldsun.