Notes from the campaign trail

Staff WriterSeptember 5, 2009 

Almost a month still to go before the primary, and already much of the suspense is gone from Durham's election season.

You did know there's an election, right?

Two of our town's big three political-action groups announced endorsements this week, and so far the usual suspects are in good shape. Both the right-inclined Friends of Durham and the left-leaning Durham People's Alliance favor incumbents Cora Cole-McFadden and Howard Clement for the City Council's Ward 1 and Ward 2 seats, respectively.

Incumbent Mayor Bill Bell and sitting Ward 3 councilman Mike Woodard only have one opponent each, and so don't face voters until the Nov. 3 general election. Cole-McFadden and Clement, though, face two and four opponents respectively in the Oct. 6 preliminary.

The third of the big three was yet to be heard from as of this writing: the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People.

Four years ago, all four of this year's incumbents got the Committee's seal of approval, but that was then and this is now and nothing is definite in Durham, as former school superintendent Ted Drain said on his way out of town. Don't be surprised if the Committee switches off Cole-McFadden in favor of young Donald Hughes.

Why? Well, Hughes, the 21-year-old son of former City Council and school board member Jackie Wagstaff, has been keeping company, so to speak, with Committee boss Lavonia Allison at City Council and county commissioners' meetings right regular these last months. And Allison's husband, F.V. "Pete" Allison, gave $100 to Hughes's campaign, according to Hughes' financial report. And Hughes has also received an endorsement and $100 from county commissioner Joe Bowser, who last year benefited from the Committee's clout in regaining the county board seat he lost in 2005.

Hughes, who just graduated UNC Greensboro last spring, promises to run a campaign taking full advantage of the electronic gee-whizzery with which his generation communicates. That's new and fresh around here, if a little reminiscent of his mother's "hip-hop" campaign for mayor four years ago.

Styling herself "J-Dub," Wagstaff got a mention in the Wall Street Journal and 4.3 percent of the vote -- but it was something different. No slight to Hughes, but the prize for innovation so far has to go to Ward 2 aspirant Darius M. Little, who, via e-mail, told incumbent Clement, "You have reached an age where it is rather difficult for you to even stand. ... It is time that you move to another plateau."

Now, in his note Little did acknowledge he's had some trouble with bouncing checks. His "trouble" includes two felony convictions and a 10-month prison term, but he's running a positive campaign. So far, we just hear that Clement got a good laugh out of Little's note and hasn't said anything more. He's been on the council since 1983; guess he's just letting the record speak for itself. or 932-2004

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