All nine members of the City Council made it through the primary, where a total of 38 names were on the ballot.
Some said that the number of candidates who filed to run indicated that the people of Greensboro were not pleased with the current City Council, but that’s not the message that was sent by the 8.4 percent who voted in the primary.
The only incumbent who didn’t win his race was District 5 City Councilmember Tony Wilkins, who finished 80 votes behind challenger Tammi Thurm in the four-way primary. Thurm finished the night with 1,066 votes for 46 percent. Wilkins had 986 for 43 percent. Perennial candidate Salvatore Leone had 169 for 7 percent and Tanner Lucas had 96 votes for 4 percent. Wilkins is the only Republican currently serving on the City Council, which made a challenge by Lucas, also a Republican, somewhat strange.
Thurm, who is a Democrat, ran a well-funded, smart campaign and clearly connected with the voters in District 5.
After all the precincts had reported, Wilkins said he had his work cut out for him. He said, “I hate being the only incumbent who didn’t win.”
According to the latest campaign finance reports, Thurm had raised over $29,000 and Wilkins over $34,000. Both amounts are considered high for district City Council races, but, with the race so close, the folks in District 5 can expect to see a lot of campaigning in the next month.
In the at-large race, the three incumbents – Councilmembers Yvonne Johnson, Marikay Abuzuaiter and Mike Barber – finished one, two and three, in the same order they did in 2015. But Barber who had 5,339 votes was only 6 votes ahead of Michelle Kennedy, who finished fourth with 5,333 votes; both had 11 percent.
Dave Wils finished a little further back in fifth place with 3,750 votes for 8 percent and Guilford County Board of Education member and former District 1 City Councilmember T. Dianne Bellamy-Small finished sixth with 3,328 votes for 7 percent.
Those six will be on the ballot for the general election on Nov. 7.
Johnson was, as usual, way out in front with 10,616 votes for 22 percent and Abuzuaiter was comfortably in second place with 6,938 votes for 15 percent.
First-time candidate Dan Jackson, who is a Republican, finished just out of the money in seventh place with 2,759 votes for 6 percent.
The rest of the 15 running in the at-large race, in the order they finished, were Irving David Allen, James Ingram, Lindy Perry-Garnette, M.A. Bakie, Tijuana B. Hayes, Jodi Bennett-Bradshaw, Andy Nelson and Sylvine Hill.
Barber said, “I’m very happy to be in the top three. I believe my commitment to no tax increase over the next four years is important to the citizens of Greensboro as well as my strong commitment to public safety. Since I’m the only at-large candidate who has made a commitment to no tax increase, I hope the moderate and conservative voters who supported another candidate in the primary can support me in the general election.”
Kennedy said, “Being only 6 votes back, I consider it a dead heat for third, and that says a lot.”
She said that running in the general election with six candidates, instead of the 15 in the primary, would provide considerable variation in the election.
Kennedy said, “We’re going to continue doing what we were doing, running a strong grassroots campaign.”
It may be grassroots, but Kennedy was second only to Barber in the amount of money she has raised for the race; and despite what some people think, particularly if you are a challenger, you have to raise money to win. As of the last report, Barber had raised over $32,000 and Kennedy over $24,000.
Wils said, “I do have some ground to make up.”
He said he’d looked at some precinct totals and the precincts that he did worst in were ones where he hadn’t campaigned. He said he planned to get together with his campaign team and come up with a strategy to get to those precincts where he hadn’t campaigned in the primary.
Being able to target precincts and knowing that your campaign is having an effect is good news for any candidate.
Wils, who like Kennedy is a member of the Human Relations Commission, said that, win or lose, he plans to keep serving Greensboro.
Johnson said she was pleased to once again be at the top of the list and added, “I just love people and I try to treat people like they are the wonderful human beings that they are.”
Abuzuaiter said, “This means I still have to work hard and keep doing what I’ve been doing on council.”
Jackson, who came close but didn’t quite make the cut, said he wouldn’t change anything about his campaign except the vote total. He said, “I’m proud and humbled by all the people that did vote for me.” He also said that, although he enjoyed the experience, he didn’t expect to ever run for office again.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan, who was facing challengers from the left and the right, didn’t have any trouble beating both. She finished with 10,593 votes for 61 percent. Diane Moffett finished a distant second with 3,747 votes for 22 percent and Republican John Brown finished third with 2,909 votes for 17 percent.
Vaughan and Moffett will run against each other in the general election, but coming back from a 39 percent deficit in the primary is going to be nearly impossible for Moffett, particularly considering that Vaughan is more likely to get the votes from third-place finisher Brown.
When asked how she won by such a large margin in the primary, Vaughan said, “There are a lot of good things happening in the city.”
She said, “I’m going to do more of what I’ve been doing because obviously it has worked to this point.”
Vaughan is running for her third term, and in 2015, she was elected with 88 percent of the vote.
She said the fact that she and most of the incumbents won by large margins against a host of challengers indicates, “The majority of the voters saw we were headed in the right direction.”
In the district races, all the incumbents except Wilkins won by large margins, mainly against challenges from the left.
District 1 Councilmember Sharon Hightower finished with 1,927 votes for 78 percent over Paula Ritter-Lipscomb who finished with 339 votes for 14 percent
Republican Devin King, who received the support of the Guilford County Republican Party, finished with 114 votes for 5 percent. King has not filed any of the required campaign finance reports, has not returned calls during most of the campaign and was a no show at most campaign events. King ran for mayor against Vaughan in 2015 and received 11 percent of the vote. Charles Patton, who officially dropped out of the race but whose name was still on the ballot, received 82 votes for 3 percent.
Hightower will face Ritter-Lipscomb in the general election.
District 2 City Councilmember Goldie Wells, who was appointed in July to fill the seat left vacant when Jamal Fox resigned to move to Portland, Oregon, won with 1,193 votes for 54 percent, but the really intriguing part of this race was for second place.
As it stands, Wells will face former District 2 City Councilmember Jim Kee, who finished second with 456 votes for 21 percent. But Kee was just 22 votes ahead of C.J. Brinson who had 434 votes for 20 percent. With electronic voting, recounts don’t often result in much change, but in this case it is possible, but not likely, that Brinson could replace Kee in a recount.
Felicia Angus, who dropped out, had 79 votes; and Tim Vincent, who also dropped out of the race, had 51 votes.
Kee said, “It’s time for a full court press.” And if Kee is going to come back from the shellacking he took in the primary, it’s got to be a really effective full court press.
District 3 City Councilmember Justin Outling didn’t have any trouble winning his primary, finishing with 3,033 votes for 69 percent. He will face Craig Martin in November, who finished second with 956 votes for 22 percent.
Antuan Marsh finished third with 259 votes for 6 percent.
Payton McGarry, who dropped out but whose name was still on the ballot, received 144 votes for 3 percent.
Outling is running for his second term and is the first Democrat to ever win the District 3 City Council seat. His challengers in the race were both from the left and the results are a clear indication that, while District 3 voters will vote for a Democrat, they don’t want a liberal Democrat representing them.
District 4 City Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann also had a challenger from the left and also won big. Hoffmann received 3,112 votes for 67 percent and will face Gary Kenton, who had 1,298 votes for 28 percent. Andrew Belford may or may not have dropped out of the race. Regardless of that, his name was on the ballot and he received 212 votes for 5 percent, so whether he dropped out before the primary or not, he is out of the race now.
Hoffmann was clearly elated at the outcome of the primary and said she had been working hard for her constituents on the City Council and the vote indicated that she was doing what they wanted.
The primary cut the field down from 38 names on the ballot to 18 for the general election, which will be far less confusing for everyone. City Council elections are nonpartisan, but this year the Republican Party chose to get involved and supported all six Republicans in the race. The only one to make it out of the primary was Wilkins.
Judging from past elections, the voter turnout in the general election should be in the 15 percent to 20 percent range.
It is incredible that, with all the complaints that are made about the City Council, the overwhelming majority of registered voters choose to let others decide who will lead the city.