DURHAM Voters settled four seats on the Board of Education in last week’s elections, and set up three other races to be officially decided in November.
Most incumbents led substantially in their vote totals, but political newcomer Mike Lee unseated two-term veteran Omega Curtis Parker for the District 1 School Board seat and District Court Judge Nancy Gordon held only an 88-vote margin over challenger Fred Battaglia in Tuesday’s unofficial results.
The Durham County Board of Elections meets to canvas and make results final on May 16. That closes the School Board election, but the top two primary finishers in two judicial races move on to the Nov. 4 general election:
• District Court Judge, Gordon seat: Nancy Gordon, 45.08 percent, vs. Fred Battaglia, 44.69 percent;
• District Court Judge, Walker seat: Doretta Walker, 57.64 percent, vs. Henry Pruette, 28.25 percent.
Because there are only two candidates, incumbent District Court Judge Pat Evans and her challenger, Magistrate Steven Storch, were not voted on in the primary and will also be on the November ballot.
Newcomers Sendolo Diaminah and Matt Sears won School Board seats in Districts 2 and 3 respectively.
Incumbent Sheriff Mike Andrews and District Attorney candidate Roger Echols won Democratic nominations for those offices Tuesday and will run unopposed in November – unless an independent candidate successfully petitions to be added to the ballot. State law requires signatures of at least 4 percent of the county’s registered on a petition, with a deadline of June 12.
Last week’s election brought out 31,092 of Durham County’s 201,193 registered voters, a 15.45 percent turnout, slightly ahead of the 13.07 percent for the last School Board/partisan primary election, in 2010.
Candidates endorsed by the Durham People’s Alliance, a self-described “progressive” political-action group, won or led all their races. Political Co-Chairman Milo Pyne said the PA, one of Durham’s three major non-partisan political organizations, was “certainly gratified by the results.”
Pyne pointed out that PA picks Diaminah and Sears won without endorsement by either of the other major groups, the business-oriented Friends of Durham and the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People – contradicting a conventional Durham wisdom that a candidate needs two of the endorsements to win.
Only three of the Durham Committee’s local candidates – Lee, Walker and Echols – won or led. Three others endorsed in state races – Supreme Court Justice Robin Hughes, Democratic U.S. Sen, Kay Hagan and Democratic U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield – led their fields.
“On the whole, candidates endorsed by the Durham Committee did well,” said Political Chairman Walter Jackson. Four other endorsed candidates finished at least second, he said, and, “I'm feeling pretty good about our prospects for the November elections.”
Friends of Durham endorsees Lee and Andrews finished first.
Neither the Committee nor the Friends endorsed Gordon, and Pyne said he was not surprised how close her contest turned out. Gordon raised more than $45,000 for her campaign and spent more than $27,000 – most of any local candidate in any election – but in the N.C. Bar Association’s 2014 Judicial Performance Survey she received the lowest rating of any district court judge in the state.