Republicans have been winning races all over the country, but they won’t be winning in the Greensboro City Council election. The elections are nominally nonpartisan, but there is no secret about the party affiliation of the candidates.
The deadline for filing is Friday, July 21 at noon, so there is still time for things to change, but as of Wednesday, July 12, of the 15 candidates filing, only two are registered Republicans. John Brown, who has filed to run for mayor, and Tanner Lucas, who has filed to run in District 5. Lucas has been registered to vote since 2010, but the only time he has voted was in the 2016 primary and general election. He has never voted in a City Council election.
District 5 City Councilmember Tony Wilkins, the lone Republican on the City Council, has also announced he is running for reelection and plans to file this week. So of the three Republicans who have filed or have said they are planning on running, two are running for the same seat, which means the best the Republicans could come out of this election is with two seats instead of one, unless some more Republicans file to run in the final week.
District 5 has also already attracted two Democratic candidates, Sal Leone and Tammi Thurm. Leone, who ran for mayor in 2015 and finished third in the primary, runs just about every time there is an election and so far hasn’t had any success. Leone was a Republican but switched over to the Democratic Party. Thurm has some support and has already held a fundraiser and it would be surprising if Thurm and Wilkins don’t end up in the general election.
In the only other race involving a Republican so far, Mayor Nancy Vaughan has announced she is running for reelection but has not filed.
Brown is in his first run for public office, going up against an incumbent mayor running for her third term who has been elected to the City Council from both a district and at large. Overcoming the name recognition factor alone will take major campaign spending by Brown.
With so few Republicans in the race, it appears that the City Council will be pulled further left. All the incumbents, with the exception of District 2 City Councilmember Jamal Fox who is resigning next week, are running for reelection and the challengers are not coming from the right.
All three at-large city councilmembers, Yvonne Johnson, Marikay Abuzuaiter and Mike Barber, have filed to run for reelection. They are being challenged by Dave Wils and Jodi Bennett-Bradshaw, who have already filed, and Lindy Perry-Garnette and Michelle Kennedy, who have announced they are running but haven’t filed.
Johnson, who is mayor pro tem – having finished first in the 2015 at-large race – and has won every time she has run at large since 1993, is a safe bet to win what she says will be her last term on the City Council. In 2015, Barber finished third and has been outspoken in expressing his opinion on the City Council including in his criticism of those disrupting City Council meetings, which may have won him, as well as lost him, some votes. In 2015, Abuzaiter finished second in the at-large race, which may give her a little more wiggle room than Barber. Both have a great deal of name recognition, which, in a low turnout election like this one will be, is hard to overcome without spending a lot of money.
District 1 City Councilmember Sharon Hightower filed to run for reelection on Friday shortly after filing opened. When talking about possible opponents, she didn’t mention any new names, but on Tuesday, July 11, Paula Ritter-Lipscomb filed to run for the District 1 seat, so Hightower didn’t go long without an opponent.
District 2 has had three candidates file – Tim Vincent, C.J. Brinson and Felicia Angus. Both Vincent and Brinson have also applied to be appointed to finish out the term of resigning Councilmember Fox. The appointment will be made on Tuesday, July 18, and if either one of them are picked it could help their campaign.
Vincent is the chief operations officer of Ready 4 Change and a business consultant.
Brinson is the youth pastor at Faith Christian Church and earlier this year worked for the Beloved Community Center. Brinson was arrested in city hall in January during a protest over the release of police records. It’s pretty interesting that someone who was arrested in city hall six months ago is now running for City Council.
District 3 City Councilmember Justin Outling has filed to run for reelection and so far no one has filed against him. Outling is the first Democrat to represent District 3 and the first black to represent the district, which is predominately white. If anyone is planning to run against Outling, they have kept quiet about it so far, which is not usually a good campaign strategy.
District 4 City Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann currently has one challenger, Gary Kenton, who is definitely to the left of Hoffmann, who is pretty far left herself. Hoffmann always raises a lot of money and runs a smart, well-planned campaign. In the past she has had paid campaign staff, something that most councilmembers can’t afford.
There is still plenty of time for people to file to run before the deadline, but so far there hasn’t been any chatter about big names getting into a race that would attract the kind of attention needed to drive people to vote. At this point it appears most likely it will be another low turnout race.