District 2 County Commissioner Seat Gets Competitive with Last Minute Candidate Filings
On Monday, Feb. 26, Guilford County Commissioner Alan Perdue had no opposition in his bid for reelection to the District 2 commissioners seat he’s held since 2014 – but, by the time the candidate filing period closed at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 28, Perdue found himself in the most crowded commissioners race on the ballot.
He’s now facing an opponent in the primary and, if he makes it past that stage, he’ll face another opponent in the general election.
On Tuesday, Feb. 27, new political face Ashley Tillery – like Perdue, a Republican – walked into the Old Guilford County Court House in downtown Greensboro and paid the $207 filing fee required to get her name on the ballot in an attempt to unseat the incumbent Perdue, who served for decades as director of Guilford County Emergency Services.
Tillery and Perdue will face off in the Republican primary in May and the winner of that race will go up against Democrat Scott Jones, a former fireman who threw his hat into the ring an hour and a half before the filing deadline expired.
Tillery, who just celebrated her 40th birthday on Feb. 22, is the director of development and community outreach for Exchange SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now), a Winston-Salem nonprofit that works to prevent child abuse and create better home environments for kids.
Tillery said she considered running for a seat on the High Point City Council last year but decided to run for county commissioner and help her city in that way instead. Her husband is the director of the Parks and Recreation Department for the City of High Point and, she said, serving on the High Point City Council may have presented a conflict of interest. Tillery said she decided she could instead advocate for her city and the surrounding area in southwestern Guilford County by being a commissioner.
Born in Winston-Salem, Tillery graduated from Western Carolina University before getting her MBA from Wingate University. She’s now a stepmother to three boys and one girl in addition to her job with SCAN, where she does a lot of fundraising – a skill that should come in handy during a political campaign.
Perdue no doubt expected to see some competition this year. A number of business leaders and elected leaders in High Point have been critical of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners over the past eight months because that board didn’t vote to provide county funding for the Downtown High Point Catalyst Project – a upcoming $35-million baseball stadium meant to bring a lot of private investment to the city’s downtown area. Perdue hasn’t said much publicly about the project, but the fact that he represents part of High Point and didn’t vote for stadium funding, upset some in that city
When Tillery was asked about her goals as a county commissioner if she wins, the first one she talks about is economic development with an emphasis on the revitalization of downtown High Point. She said the tax value of that land has been slipping and the new stadium and related projects should make a big difference in the area.
“I think that’s a huge opportunity for High Point,” Tillery said of the project, adding that it’s likely to provide a “spill over” effect that will enhance development across the southwestern corner of Guilford County.
Tillery said she knows the importance of a growing tax base, something that makes it easier to lower taxes.
She also said that education in Guilford County is important and she would be a strong advocate for county schools if elected. Each year when the county commissioners adopt a budget in June, the question of how much to fund the schools is a major sticking point.
Tillery also pointed to the coming Family Justice Center in High Point – a one-stop resource center for victims of domestic abuse and others – and said she’d like to help oversee that project as the new center starts up.
Tillery is working with her campaign director, Brandon Lenoir, an assistant professor at High Point University who has worked on many successful campaigns in the past, and who most recently helped Jay Wagner get elected mayor of High Point.
Lenoir said this week that Tillery’s filing in the District 2 race shouldn’t be seen as an attack on Perdue.
“We’re not running against Alan, we’re running for that position,” Lenoir said.
Jones, a 45-year-old Democrat who lives in Pleasant Garden, will face the winner of that Republican primary. Jones has run twice for the North Carolina state House District 59 seat held by Jon Hardister. In 2012, Jones ran and lost in the Republican primary for governor.
The District 2 candidate said he’s concerned about things like the fact that the county’s jails can’t maintain adequate staffing levels. He said that he’s concerned the school system isn’t getting the support that it needs from the county.
Jones added that he’s tired of seeing High Point get overlooked by the county commissioners.
“I’m not happy with the way High Point has been treated,” he said.
Like Tillery, Jones said he believes the new downtown stadium in High Point may help revitalize the area. He said the city needs more job opportunities that aren’t tied to the furniture market that the city is so well known for.
Jones is the executive board chairman of Tiny Houses Greensboro, an organization that helps provide permanent, affordable housing to the homeless.
Jones said he knows Perdue well and said Perdue had been chief of a rescue dive team Jones was on.
“I like Alan and I think the world of Alan,” Jones said, adding that that didn’t change the fact that there were a number of issues in that part of the county that weren’t being addressed sufficiently by the current Guilford County Board of Commissioners.
Perdue said he intends to run a positive campaign that will focus on the accomplishments of the Board of Commissioners in recent years – including property tax reduction and the creation of a Family Justice Center in both Greensboro and High Point.
County Commissioner District 8 Race Gets a Pulse
District 8 Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston may be known as the best dressed commissioner on that board; however, in the District 8 Democratic primary on May 8, Alston will go head to head with a man who will no doubt be the best smelling commissioner if he’s able to pull off a major political upset.
Fahiym Hanna, the owner and operator of Sensuous Scents & Sights at 1401 E. Bessemer Ave. in Greensboro, has a whole store of sweet smelling fragrances used to create personalized perfumes, colognes, massage oils and candles.
Hanna was born in Queens, New York, before his family moved to Guilford County. He graduated from Glenn High School in Kernersville in 2004 and opened Sensuous Scents two years later.
Hanna was a founding member of the organizing committee for HIVE Community Space in Greensboro – a not-for-profit art and events space that’s run collectively by those who use it. He also served as the president of Greater Glenwood Neighborhood Association from 2011 to 2014. In 2013, Hanna completed the Citizen’s Academy offered by the City of Greensboro, where people learn about the workings of city government.
He has not run for office before but has been politically active: In 2012 Hanna served as the field coordinator for state House Rep. Marcus Brandon in Brandon’s successful reelection campaign against former state House Rep. Earl Jones.
People may also remember Hanna for a less positive reason: In a well publicized event, Hanna committed a clear violation of election law by voting twice in the 2013 general election. Election officials discovered after the fact that Hanna had voted during early voting and then gone into a polling place on Election Day and voted there as well.
Minutes from the Nov. 12, 2013 meeting of the Guilford County Board of Elections state that election officials confirmed Hanna voted twice in that election: “The registration book at the precinct indicated the voter had already voted early, but the precinct judge did not notice.”
The minutes also state that Guilford County Board of Elections Director Charlie Collicutt phoned Hanna, “who stated that he did not realize he had voted twice in the same election – instead that he thought he was voting in the primary [and] then the general election.”
This week, Hanna said it was simply a case of forgetfulness. He said he always passes out leaflets at the polls on Election Day and then goes in to vote, and he said that, in 2013, on that day he simply forgot that he’d cast a ballot during early voting.
Hanna said one reason he chose to run for the District 8 seat this year is because it’s only two years before the next District 8 race. Guilford County commissioner’s terms last four years; however, in April 2017, former Guilford County Commissioner Ray Trapp stepped down to take a job with NC A&T State University with two-and-a-half years remaining on his commissioner’s term. Alston was appointed to fill the seat until the next general election, which is this one. Hanna said that, if he’s unsuccessful in his attempt this year, he’ll still generate some name recognition for a planned run in 2020.
He also said that Alston is a good commissioner in some ways, but added that Alston is now “old hat” after over two decades on the board. Hanna said the district needs a fresh face and new ideas.
He stated in an email that Guilford County and the City of Greensboro “need to commit to making basic needs (natural food, clean water, shelter from the elements, collective infrastructure and consensual education) accessible to everyone.”
He added, “At the heart of my campaign for county commissioner is my belief that our region cannot maintain a competitive economy for the things that we all want and enjoy if people can’t access the things that they need first.
“I have a vision for a better social service system that I call the Correct Priority Society Model (CPS-model). It is a county wide worker program that makes basic needs accessible to everyone by providing the opportunity to work 7-14 hours a week in direct exchange for their basic needs. With the CPS-model providing basic needs people will have the money, time and security to experience authentic culture, art and prosperity.”
Alston said this week that he welcomes the competition and he trusts that the District 8 voters will make a wise decision.
“Everybody has a right to run,” Alston said.
“It’s not my seat – it’s the people seat,” added the commissioner who’s held that seat for 21 of the last 26 years.
Alston said he caught wind of the fact that Hanna intended to file to run and said he called Hanna to see about getting together for a discussion before Hanna filed. Alston said that, when he made that call, Hanna informed him that he’d already signed up to run.
“He said, ‘I filed an hour ago,’” Alston said.
Alston said that he’s now prepared for the campaign.
“I take every opponent seriously,” Alston said.
The Democratic primary winner will likely win the District 8 seat since there’s no Republican running in that highly Democratic district.