Durham County

All about the 3 Durham PACs and their endorsement process

Voters wait in line for early voting at the Lake Lynn Community Center in Raleigh, N.C. Wednesday, October 26, 2016.
Voters wait in line for early voting at the Lake Lynn Community Center in Raleigh, N.C. Wednesday, October 26, 2016. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Who are the big three political action committees with demonstrated power to influence, if not determine, the outcome of elections and policy decisions in Durham County and city governments?

Here’s a look:

The Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People

Also known as: the Committee and the Durham Committee

Founded: 1935

Mission: The Durham Committee promotes the interests of the African-American community in economic, political, cultural, educational and human affairs. The organization works toward the elimination of racial discrimination or distinction in public and general private affairs.

Members: More than 300 active members. All members of the African-American community are eligible for membership.

Endorsement process: Candidates complete a questionnaire and are interviewed by the Durham Committee’s political committee. Following the interview, the political committee makes recommendations to the Durham Committee’s general body. The general body then votes on whether to accept the recommendation.

The general body’s vote may be on the entire slate or individual candidates, said Keith Bishop, the Durham Committee’s political chairman. Over the years, they have used both approaches, and it hasn’t been determined what approach they will use this year, Bishop said. General body voting members must be in good standing, which means they pay their $25 in dues at least 30 days before the meeting in which they want to vote.

The general body endorsement meeting is scheduled for Aug. 19.

2015 election period finances

Amount of cash on Jan. 1, 2015: $2,970.82

Contributions: $7,905 ($2,405 from individuals and $5,500 from other political committees)

Total spent: $7,972.52

People’s Alliance

Also known as: The PA

Founded: 1976

Mission: The People’s Alliance seeks to advance a progressive vision for Durham and the state in areas including economic inequality, public education, affordable housing and racial equity.

Members: About 1,000 people have active or recently expired memberships. Typically, there is a big influx of members before an endorsement meeting. Members pay a $35 fee, but there are options for low-income individuals and students. Members are expected to ascribe to the PA’s principals.

Endorsement process: Candidates complete a questionnaire and are interviewed by the PA’s Political Action Committee. PA members then vote on the candidates. The interview committee will present a report of finding to the general body at the Aug. 29 endorsement meeting, which may or may not include a recommendation. The membership will vote on the endorsement, which goes to the candidates with majority votes. New members who want to participate must join 30 days before the endorsement meeting.

2015 election period finances

Amount of cash on Jan. 1, 2015: $11,109.15

Contributions: $31,192.12 ($31,009.02 from individuals, $100 from political committees, $40 from nonprofits)

Total spent: $20,876.75

Friends of Durham

Also known as: The Friends

Founded: 1989

Mission: Founded by supporters of Durham businessman Nelson Strawbridge, who ran an unsuccessful campaign that year for mayor. Formed to counterbalance a perceived “liberal” dominance in city and county government. Over the years, the Friends membership has evolved to a more diverse group, PAC Chairwoman Alice Sharpe said. She added it has remained a business-oriented group focused on electing the best officials for Durham city and county that will make Durham a better place for business and ultimately create more jobs and improve the area’s quality of life.

Members: 30 members meet regularly

Endorsement process: A smaller committee meets with the candidates and interviews them. They bring the information to the larger group for a vote.

2015 election period finances

Amount of cash on Jan. 1, 2015: $2,217.54

Contributions: $8,481 ($7,981 from individuals, $500 from political committees)

Total spent: $7,901.61

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