Raleigh’s City Council elections are not high-profile races, but they’ve attracted high-quality candidates. It’s a sign that the Capital City is not only growing, but growing up. The stakes are getting higher, council seats more coveted and city politics more sophisticated.
That evolution is apparent in the races for the city council’s five district seats. Candidates will win and lose, but Raleigh gains from an election that draws such an impressive field.
In that respect, District A is Exhibit A. The North Raleigh seat opened after incumbent councilman Wayne Maiorano decided not to seek a second, two-year term. The open seat has attracted outstanding candidates.
The field is led by Dickie Thompson, 61, a Raleigh native and builder who heads the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority and was formerly a chairman of the Raleigh Planning Commission. First to enter the race was J.B. Buxton, 45, an education adviser to Gov. Mike Easley who also served as deputy state superintendent of Public Instruction. The third candidate is Eddie Woodhouse, 56, also a Raleigh native.
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Thompson and Buxton have the strongest resumes, and each would be an asset to the council. But Thompson’s experience and perspective make him the best candidate to fill the vacant seat.
Buxton is an impressive candidate, but his experience in state government and education makes him a better fit for state office. Woodhouse would bring a close knowledge of Raleigh and an interest in managing the city’s debt.
In northeastern Raleigh’s District B, incumbent John Odom, 68, has earned a return to the council for a ninth term. Often seen as the council’s resident Republican and fiscal conservative, Odom is more subtle politically, open to compromise and committed to listening to all sides in his district. He is a valuable practical voice on the council, but also willing to invest to move the city forward.
Odom is being challenged by David Cox, 57, a computer scientist who got involved in city affairs by leading a neighborhood resistance to a supermarket. Cox is thoughtful and well-informed about city planning, but in this race he faces an incumbent with a history of strong service to his district and the city.
Southeast Raleigh’s District C features a generational contest between incumbent Eugene Weeks, 75, and challenger Corey Branch, 37. The district could use a change and new perspective, and Weeks is near the end of his career, but Branch has not made an effective case for why he should be the new face of leadership in Southeast Raleigh. Changing the guard requires more than a rationale of “it’s time.” Weeks has provided knowledgeable and responsive representation and deserves to hold his seat.
District D covering southwest Raleigh offers the council’s most intriguing and telling race. Kay Crowder was appointed to replace her husband, Thomas Crowder, a tireless advocate for his district who resigned after being diagnosed with cancer. He died last October.
Crowder, 59, was her late husband’s political partner and shares his commitment to serving District D while charting a manageable but imaginative course for a growing Raleigh. During her tenure, she has shown a willingness to learn and the energy to lead. She deserves election in her own right.
Crowder is being challenged by Ashton Mae Smith, 28, a community relations manager for downtown Raleigh’s new major business, the computer software company Citrix. A Raleigh native, Smith is also part of the emerging, younger Raleigh. She is a promising candidate with energy and vision, but in need of experience.
In District E covering a long stretch of northwestern Raleigh from Five Points to Brier Creek, incumbent Bonner Gaylord, 37, a likely candidate for mayor in 2017, deserves re-election. He brings a younger perspective to the council and, as manager of the North Hills development, works at the front line of Raleigh’s fast growth.
Gaylord has drawn an interesting challenger in Edie Jeffreys, 54, a Raleigh native who emerged from local efforts to protect neighborhoods from excessive infill and development incompatible with surrounding homes. Jeffreys, a SAS employee, has deep roots in the city and is trained in logistics, which she teaches at Wake Tech. She could bring a valuable mix of historic perspective and technological savvy to the council, but she got a late start in this race.
Also running in District E is DeAntony Collins, a 31-year-old manager of an early education center. Collins, an Atlanta native, came to Raleigh in 2003 to attend Shaw University and decided to stay. Collins says he would improve the district’s constituents services and the city’s overall communications.