Filing for the 2017 Greensboro City Council races opens on Friday, July 7 at noon, and things are already starting to get interesting.
District 2 City Councilmember Jamal Fox announced last week that he would not run for reelection, which was a surprise; and then this week, to top that surprise, Fox announced that he would be resigning from the City Council.
Fox is getting married in August and reportedly will be moving to Portland, Oregon, where his future wife currently resides. Fox is scheduled to resign on at the next City Council meeting on July 18.
According to the city press release, which was extremely confusing because the headline says it is about Fox resigning but the text is about Fox not running for reelection until the very last paragraph that states that the City Council will appoint someone to serve out Fox’s term at the next City Council meeting on July 18. City Council terms end in December.
Fox was first elected in 2013 and won reelection in 2015 with 88 percent of the vote. Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “We wish him well. I think he has served District 2 extremely well.”
It will only be for a couple of months, but appointing Fox’s replacement is big deal because even serving a short term gives a candidate some of the advantages of running as an incumbent. The City Council has a number of considerations in making the appointment. They could choose someone who is not going to run for the District 2 City Council seat, which wouldn’t have much effect on the upcoming election, or they could appoint someone who is running, tapping that person as the candidate they would like to see serve.
Both District 3 City Councilmember Justin Outling and District 5 City Councilmember Tony Wilkins were appointed to serve on the council before running and winning full terms.
And there is already a big name in the race, former City Councilmember Jim Kee, who Fox defeated in a close, bitter race in 2013 when Kee was running for this third term on the City Council. Kee, a developer who has recently gotten involved in urban farming, said he had enjoyed his time off the City Council because he had more time to devote to working and making money. Kee was popular on the City Council for his pro-business view and was something of a swing vote, taking positions on a matter before the council for its merits and not being tied to a particular political group or ideology.
Kee ran for the state House against District 57 state Rep. Pricey Harrison in 2014 and was defeated in the Democratic primary.
C.J. Brinson, who has been one of the protestors against the police department at City Council meetings this year, has announced his intention to run for the District 2 seat. Brinson was one of the protestors arrested in January at city hall.
Vaughan has announced her intention to run for reelection for a third term as mayor, and the terms for all councilmembers are four years this time. So far only one candidate has announced his intention to run against Vaughan and that’s John Brown, a political newcomer. Brown says that there is a leadership void at city hall and that with his experience in the construction industry he can help the city save money on construction projects.
In the at-large race, Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson says she is going to run for one more term on the City Council. Two years ago Johnson also said she was running for her last term, but this time she says she’s serious. Johnson was first elected to the City Council in 1993. She was elected Greensboro’s first black mayor in 2007 and lost her reelection bid to Bill Knight in 2009. In 2011, Johnson ran for an at-large seat on the City Council and has easily won reelection ever since.
At-large City Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter was first elected in 2011, and in 2015 finished second in the three-way at-large City Council race. She is also planning to run for reelection.
The third at-large city councilmember, Mike Barber, has made no official announcement about running for reelection, which is not a surprise since Barber is known for holding his cards close to his vest. There was a lot of talk about Barber taking a shot at mayor, but Barber said all that was just people talking.
It appears the at-large members will have two challengers from the left.
Dave Wils, who is a public school teacher and will be teaching at Grimsley High School next fall, has announced his plans to run. The races are nonpartisan but political affiliations are no secret. Wils is an active member of the Democratic Party and spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last summer.
Also announcing her intention to run is Michelle Kennedy, the head of the Interactive Resource Center, the daytime homeless shelter on Washington Street in downtown Greensboro.
Both Wils and Kennedy are members of the Greensboro Human Relations Commission.
The lone Republican on the City Council, District 5 Councilmember Tony Wilkins, has attracted some competition with Tammi Thurm announcing her intention to run in District 5, which is considered the most conservative district in the city. Thurm is the firm administrator at Hagan Barrett & Langley and a member of the Greensboro Minimum Housing Standards Commission. She has already held a fundraiser.
Wilkins was appointed to replace former City Councilmember Trudy Wade when she was elected to the state Senate in 2012. Wilkins then won a full term in 2013 and ran unopposed in 2015.
District 1 City Councilmember Sharon Hightower, District 3 City Councilmember Justin Outling and District 4 City Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann have all said they are running for reelection, but so far no one has announced they are running against them.
One of the reasons for increasing the terms from two years to four years is that the longer term was supposed to attract more candidates because they wouldn’t have to get geared up to run every other year, but so far it doesn’t look like that has worked.
However, until filing is over you, never know who is going to run in a City Council election.