Wait, didn’t we just finish an election? I haven’t even removed my “I Voted Today” sticker from the bathroom mirror. (It’s my daily reminder that I still live in a democracy, supposedly.)
In the last legislative session, Republican state lawmakers bumped up the 2016 primary to March 15 from early May. This 11th-hour electoral maneuver had little to do with the local races, but more to influence the legislative and presidential contests.
So while new Durham City Council members were sworn in on Dec. 7, and we’re now less than three months from the March primary, in which we’ll elect the first round of state, judicial, presidential and local offices—Durham County Commissioners and school board.
First, the nitty gritty—we'll go more in-depth as the election nears. Early voting starts March 3.
Ten candidates are running for five commission seats. All of the incumbents are running for re-election:
- Fred Foster Jr., seeking a second term
- Wendy Jacobs, running for her second term
- Brenda Howerton, seeking her third term
- Michael Page, running for his fourth term
- And Ellen Reckhow, seeking her eighth term
Plus there are five challengers:
In the last election, the hubbub centered on—Michael Page and Brenda Howerton— who were the favored candidates of developers of the controversial 751 South project. This time, funding for Durham Public Schools is the focus. The DPS budget, the local portion of which the commissioners must approve as part of the larger county financial plan, has been eroded by cuts on the state level and the funneling of students and their state allocation to charter schools. However, DPS did not get all of the local funding it requested this year, prompting Wendy Jacobs and Ellen Reckhow to oppose the overall county budget.
It’s no wonder then why current school board chairwoman Heidi Carter is running for a seat.
Another challenger also has educational ties: Tara Fikes, who sits the board of trustees for Durham Tech, and is on the Durham Social Services board. Fikes served as the Orange County director of the Department of Housing, Human Rights and Community Development before retiring and turning her attention back to her native Durham.
Here is a bit more background on other challengers:
Elaine Hyman retired as the Durham County's Human Resources Director in 2012, the same year she first ran for county commissioner. In the primary, Hyman placed ninth of 14 candidates.
Glyndola Massenburg-Beasley has banking experience. She is a housing counselor and former vice president for the City of Durham’s Workforce Development Board. She was the former Durham Regional Financial Center president, a credit counseling service that declared bankruptcy in 2003.
James Hill Jr. has yet to post an election website.