Mayor Steve Schewel has received the endorsement of one of Durham’s most influential political groups as he seeks his second term, but he said having the People’s Alliance back the city’s $95 million housing bond was more important.
“To have both of their endorsements is just really gratifying,” Schewel said Tuesday. “And I’m really, grateful for it.”
The bond referendum has been one of Schewel’s priorities. The money would allow the Durham Housing Authority to accelerate plans for redeveloping several of its properties to include hundreds of additional units.
“The housing bond is the most important thing on the ballot this year,” Schewel said. “The bond is so critical to the future of Durham, if we’re serious about taking on our affordability crisis. I think more and more people are going to support the bond once they learn more about it.
The Sierra Club of North Carolina also supports the bond, which it said would also help promote open space and energy efficiency.
“The Sierra Club has not traditionally endorsed housing bonds, but the Club’s infill policy lists goals of making housing affordable and accessible to all, supporting dense and mixed-use communities and land uses, and avoiding sprawl — clearly in line with the goals of the bond,” according to a news release. “Thus the Sierra Club enthusiastically supports the passage of the bond, which will support the creation and preservation of affordable housing for thousands of Durham residents.”
Ten candidates are running for three at-large seats on the City Council, while Schewel has one opponent.
The People’s Alliance endorsed all three council incumbents: Javiera Caballero, Jillian Johnson and Charlie Reece.
The Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People has endorsed Schewel for mayor and Reece and Joshua Gunn for City Council. It has not released its position on the housing bond referendum or endorsed a third council candidate.
The other council candidates are Charlitta Burruss, Ricardo Correa, Daniel Meier, Victoria Peterson, John Tarantino and Jackie Wagstaff. Sylvester Williams is running against Schewel in the mayor’s race.
Reece and Johnson, who are seeking their second terms, were first elected in 2015. Caballero, the first Latina on the council, is running for the first time after being appointed in 2018 to finish Schewel’s unexpired term when he became mayor.
Johnson, Reece and Caballero are running together under the banner of “Bull City Together.” They also were endorsed by the Durham Association of Educators last month.
The People’s Alliance held its candidate endorsement meeting Aug. 21. Any member of the group could speak in favor of their preferred candidate that night. Members who paid their dues in June were eligible to vote on the endorsements, which were released Tuesday.
Gunn, a fourth-generation Durhamite who is running for the first time, said receiving the Durham Committee’s endorsement was an honor.
“The Durham Committee holds such an iconic and legendary space in our community,” he said. “I mean, I remember going to the polls with my dad, and he would have the Durham Committee slate ... and that’s how he would vote. Their recommendations meant a great deal to the political needs and interests of black people in Durham.”
Gunn said he was disappointed not to get the People’s Alliance endorsement but believes he has strong support among its members.
Early voting in the municipal primary runs Sept. 18-Oct. 4 with the primary election Oct. 8. The field for City Council will be cut down to six candidates who will advance to the general election in November.