The three incumbents on the Durham City Council held the top three spots all night long in a crowded primary field Tuesday.
With all 59 precincts reporting, Jillian Johnson, Charlie Reece and Javiera Caballero won 21%, 20% and 19% of all the votes cast, respectively.
The top six candidates in the 10-person field will compete for three at-large seats in the general election Nov. 5, when voters will also choose between incumbent Steve Schewel and Sylvester Williams for mayor and decide on a $95 million affordable housing bond.
First-time candidate Joshua Gunn finished fourth Tuesday with 14%, former Councilwoman Jackie Wagstaff was fifth with 7.5%; and Daniel Meier sixth with 6%.
Turnout was light at just under 13% of registered voters in the city.
The incumbents decided in the spring to run under the banner of “Bull City Together” and watched the results together Tuesday night with about 40 supporters at 106 Main in downtown.
“It was our hope and faith that the people of this city would be inspired by that,” Reece said. “I think tonight’s results demonstrate that.”
They’ve staked out five policy priorities: community engagement, inclusive economic development, housing affordability, community safety and sustainability.
Johnson said she is excited about the opportunity to continue to serve the city.
“It is heartening to see the majority of folks think we are on the right track,” she said. “And that our platform is addressing the issues that they care about.”
Caballero, the first Latina on the City Council, watched as the numbers appeared to take her one step closer to her first election victory. She was appointed to her seat when then council member Steve Schewel became mayor.
“It is a tiny step forward, and my hope is in a direction or a signal of where we will be in the future,” she said.
Gunn said the votes show that people are ready for a change and want their voice heard in Durham.
His campaign has evolved from that of a political newcomer who filed 15 minutes before the deadline to one garnering thousands of votes, he said.
“We have some work to do, but it says that a lot of people in Durham want a change,” Gunn said.
Wagstaff said the numbers reflected low voter turnout. She said she will expand her efforts with more knocking on doors and face-to-face campaigning.
“The next round will be totally different,” she said.
The incumbents were criticized for running as a bloc by other candidates, including Wagstaff, Victoria Peterson and Gunn.
They also were criticized for supporting a now-failed light rail project and for not supporting a request by Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis to add more officers to her department.
The bottom four candidates Tuesday night were Peterson, Ricardo Correa, Charlitta Burruss and John Tarantino.