DURHAM — With 58 of 65 precincts reporting in the race for Durham county commissioner, incumbent Ellen Reckhow and candidates Fred Foster Jr. and Wendy Jacobs held onto the top three spots they had claimed since the first returns came in.
Reckhow had 14.6 percent of the vote, Foster had 13.9 percent and Jacobs, 13.6 percent. Incumbent Brenda Howerton was running in fourth place, with 10.2 percent, and incumbent Michael Page was close behind, in fifth place, with 10 percent.
Challenger Will Wilson had 8.65 percent. Incumbent Joe Bowser remained in seventh position, as he had throughout the evening, with 8 percent.
The top five vote-getters will be the Democratic nominees for the Board of County Commissioners. A sixth-place candidate with a high enough number of votes may challenge the fifth-place winner to a runoff.
Fourteen candidates, all Democrats, entered the race for the county board’s five seats. No Republicans ran, but track coach Omar Beasley hopes to run as an independent candidate in the November general election. To get a spot on the ballot, Beasley needs 7,000 signatures by the end of June.
The controversial 751 South emerged as a major issue in the campaign. In April, Southern Durham Development, the project’s developer, created the super PAC Durham’s Partnership for Progress. Through the super PAC, the company spent $54,000 promoting four candidates who favor its project: incumbent commissioners Bowser, Howerton and Page and newcomer Rickey Padgett.
In the final week of the campaign, several Durham residents complained to the state Board of Elections that the Partnership for Progress was illegally coordinating with the individual candidates’ campaigns. After investigating, the board found no evidence of impropriety.
Meanwhile, the People’s Alliance political-action group endorsed four candidates who oppose 751 South: Foster, Jacobs, Wilson and incumbent Reckhow. The PA reported spending $12,430 in the first quarter of this year, though most of its energy went toward opposing Amendment One.
Jacobs and Reckhow reported the highest individual campaign revenue and spending. Since Jan. 1, Jacobs raised $20,274 and spent $15,205, while Reckhow, a commissioner since 1988, began the year with $2,956 in her campaign account and has taken in $14,280 since Jan. 1. Her first-quarter spending was $10,263
In 2010, the current board approved a rezoning crucial to 751 South by a 3-2 vote that led to a lawsuit by opponents. The suit was dismissed in February, affirming the rezoning, but Southern Durham Development has since applied for a re-rezoning to remove some building restrictions included in the first.
That application is currently under administrative review, but would eventually come to the commissioners for decision – most likely before candidates elected Tuesday take their seats.