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Indian-Americans could make up majority of Morrisville Town Council

August 2, 2013 

Triangle advocacy group Voice 4 Israel and a Los Angeles-based group Stand With Us are paying to put this advertisement on Chapel Hill Transit buses for the next year. The ads could be posted by September to replace a controversial ad that the Church of Reconciliation paid to post in August 2012. The new ad's sponsors hope it will be a "more conducive" approach to talking about Israeli-Palestinian peace.

TAMMY GRUBB — Town of Chapel Hill Buy Photo

Four Indian-Americans are running for seats on the Morrisville Town Council this fall, a sign that the town’s large Asian-American population may want to play a bigger role in local government.

The number of Indian-American candidates in this town is unprecedented; if all are elected in November, more than half of the council would be non-white, a first for the town.

But the four Indian-American candidates – incumbent Steve Rao and newcomers Rao Bondalapati, Vinod “Vinnie” Goel and Narendra Singh – said they didn’t plan to run for office in the same year.

It was a coincidence, they said, and some credited the local population boom of the Asian-American community.

In 2000, Morrisville had 230 Indian-Americans. The number spiked to 3,717 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That year, Indian-Americans made up 20 percent of the town’s population, the highest concentration of any town or city in Wake County.

Despite the population growth, Asian-Americans haven’t had major representation in local government. In 2011, Rao became the first Indian-American elected to the Morrisville Town Council.

Rao, a 43-year-old business development director, will face off against former councilman Pete Martin to keep his at-large seat.

“I hope that my run and victory inspired others to run,” Rao said. “But I can’t take credit for others stepping forward because they are accomplished in their own right.”

GOP explains Peyton ‘snub’

The Wake County Republican Party says its recent endorsement of Raleigh mayoral candidate Robert Weltzin wasn’t intended as a slight to his opponent, Venita Peyton.

The move came as a surprise because Peyton has been active in GOP circles for more than a decade. GOP leaders say their reasoning is simple: Peyton, they said, asked not to be endorsed because she’s running a nonpartisan campaign.

“Our single, most important consideration was how best to honor our candidate’s wishes,” the party wrote in a news release.

For her part, Peyton says she didn’t participate in the GOP’s endorsement process because they required a 30-word explanation of why she’s running. “I declined, stating that the office of mayor is too important to condense into 30 words,” she said. “I reiterated that my goal is to keep the Raleigh mayoral race truly nonpartisan.”

Peyton says the true “snub” to her came 14 years ago when Democrats asked her to drop out of the mayor’s race and support other Dems Charles Meeker and Stephanie Fanjul. Both of them lost to Republican Paul Coble that year.

Ad debate rolls on

A Triangle group that took issue with an Israeli-Palestinian advertisement posted on Chapel Hill Transit buses last year is posting its own ad next month.

Voice 4 Israel, a pro-Israel education and advocacy group, has partnered with a Los Angeles-based counterpart Stand With Us to develop the new ad campaign.

The ad shows Israeli and Palestinian boys hugging. It reads: “Imagine Peace in a Middle East where Israel and her neighbors share technology and resources to create a future of peace and prosperity for generations to come. The possibilities are endless. Israel seeks a Partner for Peace.”

Voice 4 Israel President Mike Ross said the ad sends a positive message that peace benefits everyone.

“We want the local community to understand that Israel does want peace,” Ross said. “We felt the underlying message of the other ad was Israel doesn’t deserve to defend itself and protect itself. It was hurtful.”

Chapel Hill’s Town Council heard months of debate last fall after the Presbyterian-affiliated Church of the Reconciliation paid to run the current ad for one year.

That ad showed Palestinian and Israeli grandfathers holding their grandchildren and read: “Join with us. Build peace with justice and equality. End U.S. Military aid to Israel.”

The council amended the town’s bus advertising policy in December. Transit staff and Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos reviewed the Voice 4 Israel ad and found it met town standards. It also could run for a year.

Compiled by staff writers Aliana Ramos, Colin Campbell and Tammy Grubb.

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