Durham County

Schewel defeats Ali to win Durham mayor’s race

Durham voters chose City Councilman Steve Schewel to succeed Mayor Bill Bell on Tuesday. He will become the Bull City’s first new mayor since 2001.

With all 59 precincts reporting Tuesday night, Schewel had 21,262 votes (59.53 percent) to Ali’s 14,334 (40.13 percent).

Speaking to supporters, Schewel spoke of his mother, who recently died.

“I feel her presence constantly. I know that she would have been proud of me, but more than that she would have been proud of us,” he said. “Mom, I’ll do my best.”

Schewel is a visiting assistant professor at the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy and has been a council member since 2011. He also served on the Durham school board from 2004-08.

Ali is the president and CEO of The Institute, which works to promote minority economic development, and served one term on the council from 2007-11. He also chairs the Raleigh Durham International Airport Authority.

Schewel had also finished first in last month’s primary, with 51 percent to Ali’s 29 percent of the votes, but that was a larger candidate field.

The mayor serves a two-year term and is paid an annual salary of $25,084. City Council members serve a four-year term and are paid an annual salary of $21,308.

Ward races

In Ward 1, challenger DeDreana Freeman defeated longterm incumbent Cora Cole-McFadden.

Freeman is special assistant to the president of the East Durham Children’s Initiative, a program trying to create a “cradle to college or career” pipeline of services for children in a 120-block area of East Durham.

Cole-McFadden, a retired director of the city’s Department of Equal Opportunity/Equity Assurance, has been a member of the City Council since 2001. She is currently mayor pro tempore.

With all precincts reporting Tuesday night, Freeman had 18,856 votes (54.44 percent) of the votes to Cole-McFadden’s 15,725 votes (45.4 percent).

In Ward 2, which had no incumbent, the Rev. Mark-Anthony Middleton defeated John Rooks Jr.

Middleton, pastor of Abundant Hope Christian Church and endorsed by the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, had 19,148 votes (57.05 percent).

Rooks, an IT worker endorsed by the People’s Alliance political action committee, had 14,339 votes (42.72 percent).

In Ward 3, also with no incumbent Tuesday, Vernetta Alston defeated Shelia Huggins.

Alston, a former Center for Death Penalty Litigation attorney endorsed by the People’s Alliance PAC, had 21,209 votes (62.44 percent) to Huggins’ 12,657 votes (37.26 percent).

Huggins, an attorney, had been endorsed by the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and Mayor Bell, as well as Ward 3 incumbent Don Moffitt, who placed third in the Oct. 10 primary.

Newly elected Durham City Council members will be sworn in at the Tuesday, Dec. 4 council meeting.