Middleton, Rooks win Ward 2 Durham City Council primary

The Rev. Mark-Anthony Middleton and engineer John Rooks Jr. coasted to victories in Tuesday’s primary for the Durham City Council’s Ward 2 seat.

Middleton led the field with 9,874 votes, or 41.9 percent of the total cast via early voting and in all 59 precincts.

Rooks followed with 7,377, or 31.3 percent of the total.

The next-highest totals belonged to IT business consultant DeAnna Hall and teacher LeVon Barnes, with 2,789 and 2,408 votes, or 11.8 percent and 10.2 percent, respectively.

Middleton and Rooks held much the same kind of lead just from early voting, often a bellwether for how a local election will turn out once its final precinct-by-precint numbers are in.

The city’s remaining voters went to the polls Tuesday to winnow the fields to two candidates each for mayor and the three ward seats in next month’s general election.

Ward 2 drew the largest field of the council races. Six people ran in hopes of replacing incumbent council member Eddie Davis, a retired teacher who did not seek a second term.

Middleton rose to local prominence via his role in Durham CAN (Durham Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods). He received endorsements from the Friends of Durham and the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, two of the city’s big-three political groups.

The No. 1 topic on the campaign trail has been affordable housing, Middleton said. “Everyone knows Durham is on the rise, but the constant motif I heard is how can we get everyone involved,” he said.

Rooks secured the backing of the city’s third major political group, the People’s Alliance, in a bit of a surprise after supporters argued he’s been instrumental in helping residents of the McDougald Terrace public housing complex.

Barnes got an endorsement from Equality NC, an LBGTQ advocacy group. Rooks, who did not get the group’s nod, later acknowledged that a supporter of his had submitted a questionnaire for him that didn’t reflect his actual views on LGBT rights.

The remaining candidates in the race were Robert Fluet, a client engagement director, and Dolly Reaves, a stay-at-home mom and graduate student. Fluet had 611 votes, about 2.6 percent, and Reaves had 448, about 2 percent.

Precinct-level results trickled in throughout the evening, and it was soon obvious Middleton and Rooks were likely to make it through to the Nov. 7 general election.

Barnes, at least, declined to say Tuesday night which of the frontrunners he might endorse.

“Both candidates have a lot to prove to me about why I should back them,” Barnes said. “Both candidates are good guys; I respect them highly. There are definitely points in each platform I disagree with.”

He added that it’s “difficult going up against machines” like the PA, the Durham Committee or even Durham CAN. He questioned whether “any one organization” should have so much power, but added that “the only way that’s going to change is if more than 21 percent of the electorate comes out.”

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan