Departing Durham mayor Bill Bell wants Farad Ali to replace him

Retiring Durham Mayor Bill Bell, right, endorses candidate Farad Ali, left, to be his successor at a news conference Thursday.
Retiring Durham Mayor Bill Bell, right, endorses candidate Farad Ali, left, to be his successor at a news conference Thursday. dvaughan@heraldsun.com

Retiring Durham Mayor Bill Bell endorsed Farad Ali to be the next mayor of Durham, calling him an experienced leader and instrumental in the city council’s focus on neighborhoods during Ali’s term. Ali served one term from 2007 to 2011.

“I’ve always felt we can do downtown, but you’ve got to do your neighborhoods, too,” Bell said.

Bell’s expected endorsement of Ali came on Thursday, the first day of early voting in Durham’s municipal general election. Bell attended Ali’s primary election results party on Oct. 10 but stopped short of an endorsement until now. Bell made the announcement at Ali’s campaign headquarters on Parrish Street downtown. Ali is running against Steve Schewel for mayor. Early voting started Thursday.

“Bill has been a mentor in politics and in life, and I’ve known him for a while, and his kids, and I’m just happy that he’s here,” Ali said of Bell.

Bell said he went to “God knows how many” of the pre-primary candidate forums and wanted to wait on endorsements until after he knew there would be at least four city council members with experience. While the council makes policy, it’s the city administration that carries it out, he said.

“Cooperation and collaboration has worked well for the City of Durham,” Bell said.

It’s always difficult, at least for me, when you have to make a choice between longtime friends. I’ve known Farad for I don’t know how long and I’ve known Steve for I don’t know how many years. There’s no question in my mind that both are qualified, but they’re competing for the same spot,” Bell said.

Bell came to Ali’s headquarters just after the Durham City Council’s work session concluded Thursday. He said he told Schewel at the work session that he would be endorsing Ali.

Ali called Bell a trailblazer.

“I feel like Bill is Moses,” Ali said. “I pray I can be like Joshua, depending on many people to lead.”

Bell Hill Ali
Durham Mayor Bill Bell, former Durham County Sheriff Worth Hill and mayoral candidate Farad Ali. Bell and Hill endorsed Ali. Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan dvaughan@heraldsun.com

Former Durham County Sheriff Worth Hill also endorsed Ali for mayor.

“Look at his credentials, his experience in a wide variety of things,” Hill said about Ali.

Bell also endorsed Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole-McFadden to maintain her Ward 1 City Council seat. She is the only incumbent who made it through the primary.

“She’s served long in this community and deserves to be re-elected,” Bell said. Both Bell and Cole-McFadden have been on the council since 2001.

Cole-McFadden is running against DeDreana Freeman. Ward 2 candidates are John Rooks Jr. and Mark-Anthony Middleton, and Vernetta Alston and Shelia Ann Huggins are running for Ward 3. Bell said that he hasn’t endorsed candidates in those two ward races and that they have not asked for his endorsement.

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