The best chance for Republicans to regain a voice in city politics this fall might be in Raleigh’s District B election, and the challenger isn’t actually a Republican anymore.
Raleigh City Council elections are non-partisan, but party affiliation is often a factor. No member of the current council is a registered Republican.
But former councilman John Odom is running to take back the seat he held for 16 years and lost in 2015 to David Cox by fewer than 300 votes.
The two will face off again in the Oct. 10 election to represent the district that spans the northeastern parts of the city – nearly every neighborhood outside the Beltline that’s east of Atlantic Avenue and north of New Bern Avenue.
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Odom recently quit the Republican Party to become an unaffiliated voter, although he was endorsed by the Wake County GOP this year. Cox, who is also unaffiliated, initially ran for the council after leading a successful neighborhood campaign to prevent the construction of a Publix grocery store.
That battle is long over, but Cox says he believes voters still support his calls for slowing down the pace of commercial development.
“At the end of the day if the people who live there have issues with the development, and there’s no clear benefit, I’m going to vote with the neighborhood,” Cox said.
Odom was often more supportive of growth during his time on the council.
“He won by getting all the neighbors riled up,” Odom said of Cox’s 2015 victory. “But this time they’ve had two years to get to know how David Cox works and what he thinks.”
Bio: Cox, 59, is a computer scientist who moved to Raleigh in 2001. He works for tech company ABB. He has been active with Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, the National Kidney Foundation and Transplant Recipients International.
Issues: Cox has been one of the council’s most reliable votes against new development. He also supports giving power to citizen advisory councils, which he says give residents more of a voice in local politics and serve as a check on the City Council. He said the city needs to take steps to ease traffic woes on Interstate 540 and N.C. 98.
Endorsements/affiliations: Cox is unaffiliated and hasn’t been endorsed by any political party. He has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, Equality NC, the AFL-CIO, the Raleigh Police Protective Association, the Raleigh chapter of the N.C. Police Benevolent Association and the Raleigh Professional Fire Fighters Association.
In his words: “For me the top thing on the list is citizen engagement, and making sure we do it the right way, and making sure citizens can control their own destiny.”
Bio: Odom, 70, is a Vietnam War veteran and small business owner. He has been in Raleigh 45 years and spent more than two decades as executive director of the Greater Raleigh Merchants Association. He helped start Shop Local Raleigh and has been active in youth sports, the Civitan Club and Saint James United Methodist Church. He served on the City Council for most of the years between 1993 and 2015, and he launched failed campaigns for the Wake County Board of Commissioners in 2016, N.C. Insurance Commissioner in 2008 and Raleigh mayor in 2003.
Issues: Odom says the top issues facing Raleigh are a lack of affordable housing and the need for better roads. He also has been critical of the city’s spending, which he says is too high. He said the city needs to improve traffic issues on New Bern Avenue.
Endorsements/affiliations: Odom is unaffiliated and is endorsed by the Wake County Republican Party.
In his words: “I’m very nervous about all the things we’re spending on, like a new city logo. I think that’s absurd. It won’t make Raleigh great if we continue to raise taxes on people who live here.”
Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran