Triangle Politics

Real estate broker runs for Raleigh council

June 6, 2009 

The race for the two at-large seats on the Raleigh City Council got a shot of youth this week as Champ Claris, 31, formally announced his candidacy.

Claris, a real estate broker, is running for elected office for the first time. He graduated from N.C. State University with a degree in business management and has worked for York Simpson Underwood since 2003.

Claris, a Republican, said this week that he wants to help bring a culture of common sense to city hall, which would involve focusing squarely on public safety and supporting local businesses.

"I want to keep us safe, and I want to keep us healthy economically," he said.

The two current at-large city councilors, Russ Stephenson and Mary-Ann Baldwin, are running for re-election. Claris said he feels recent councils have focused too heavily on downtown and at times neglected businesses elsewhere in the city.

"I love our downtown. I've spent a lot of time down there, but we're more than just a downtown," Claris said.

During the 2007 City Council election, Baldwin, a former director of marketing for Stewart Engineering, was frequently criticized by some for taking money from developers.

"Just because I'm a real estate agent doesn't mean I'm going to be in anyone's pocket, developers or otherwise," Claris said. "I'm pro-business, but I'm pro-Raleigh. I want to protect our water and our natural resources and the character of our neighborhoods as much as anybody."

4 vie for Blue seat

Four people have announced their candidacy for the N.C. House seat left vacant when Rep. Dan Blue was appointed to the Senate seat of Vernon Malone, who died in April.

The list includes Bernard Allen Jr., 44, an employee of the State Employees Association of North Carolina; Abeni El-Amin, 32, chairwoman of the Raleigh Human Relations Commission; Rosa Gill, 65, chairwoman of the Wake County school board; and Paul Terrell III, 42, a manufacturing maintenance technician with Cree in Durham.

Both Gill and Allen had expressed interest in Malone's Senate seat. All four candidates will square off today at a forum sponsored by the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association in conjunction with the Wake African American Caucus.

The forum starts at 10 a.m. at the Seby Jones Fine Arts Building on the campus of St. Augustine's College. After the forum, the RWCA will make a recommendation to the Wake County Democratic Party, which plans to name Blue's replacement on Thursday.

WF man for school board

Former Wake Forest Commissioner Chris Malone announced Friday that he's running for the District 1 seat on the Wake County school board.

Malone, a Republican businessman, accused the school system of no longer serving students and of holding families at arm's length. Sounding a theme echoed by other opposition candidates, Malone said he wants to "enhance the sense of community" and "increase parental involvement."

Malone enters a crowded field of candidates. Rita Rake-straw, chairwoman of Citizens Against Residential Encroachment, has been seeking the support of Democratic groups. Otis Tyrone Lindsey also filed paperwork to form a campaign committee.

District 1 covers Wake Forest, Rolesville, Knightdale, Wendell and Zebulon. The seat is now held by Lori Millberg, who is not running for re-election.

Political trail

The Wake County Young Republicans will hold its next monthly meeting on Monday at Hi-5 Restaurant, 510 Glenwood Ave. in Raleigh. Meeting starts at 7 p.m., but guests are welcome to come early for food and socializing. The four candidates for N.C. GOP chairman will be speaking, and it will be one of the last chances to hear them before the Republican State Convention on June 12. Membership in the Wake Young Republicans is open to registered Republicans between the ages of 18 and 41, but Republicans of all ages are welcome to attend. For more information visit

The Wake Democratic Mens Club will meet Monday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Clarion Hotel, 320 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh. Guest speaker will be David Young, chairman of the N.C. Democratic Party. Cost of the sit-down dinner is $16 for members, first-time guests, and those not eligible for Club membership, $20 for non-members. All registered Wake County voters are eligible for club membership. RSVP no later than noon Monday to or 773-0245.

The Northern Wake County Republican Club will meet Thursday at Events in Newton Square, 230 Newton Road in Raleigh. Dinner will be served from 6 to 7 p.m. Meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and end at 8:15 p.m. Dinner is $13; people who wish to attend but not eat are welcome to do so for an admission charge of $4. Featured speaker is state Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, Republican leader in the N.C. House of Representatives.

Politically speaking

"It's not a lot of dollars, but it's a perception issue," said Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, referring to public anger over the $10,000 raise awarded to City Manager Russell Allen last month. "And the council pays attention to perception, so we'll take a look at it."

Compiled by David Bracken and T. Keung Hui

Triangle Politics is a weekly look at the local political scene. Got a tip, item or coming event? Fax Triangle Politics at 829-4529, or send e-mail to or

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