Bonner Gaylord has more campaign cash than any other Raleigh City Council candidate and he’s received at least 75 percent of the vote in each of his three successful bids to represent District E.
In fact, he ran unopposed in the two most recent elections and is widely thought to be considering a run for mayor in 2017.
But Gaylord this year faces two opponents who say they’re running in part because the incumbent has failed to address concerns from residents in District E, which encompasses northwest Raleigh.
Edie Jeffreys, a software tester at SAS, and DeAntony Collins, an administrator at a local preschool, accuse Gaylord of being too close to developers and say he’s not doing enough to protect Raleigh’s neighborhoods.
Gaylord works for Raleigh developer Kane Realty as the general manager of North Hills shopping mall.
“Councilor Gaylord has been focused on downtown quite a bit and hasn’t paid enough attention to his own district,” Jeffreys said.
Jeffreys and Collins each say they’re concerned about the city’s effort to apply new development zones across the city, which Gaylord supports.
The zones dictate which types of development can be built, from low-density housing to office space, retail and high-density housing. Proposed zones aim to maintain the character of most properties, while enabling a wider variety of development in selected areas.
Collins wants residents’ opinions to carry more weight in the process.
“Who proposed these changes?” Collins said. “If more people had a seat at the table, we’d be able to better understand how we got to where we are.”
Jeffreys thinks the city’s zoning regulations are already too loose and wants the city to incorporate transitional zones into the remapping process.
“It provides for more opportunity for out-of-character development,” she said of the new zones.
For his part, Gaylord said he’s open to protecting transitions but that he thinks his opponents have overstated the public’s opinion. He noted that the City Council has held two hearings on the remapping and that city staff has offered to meet with any concerned resident.
“The neighbors who have had it explained to them don’t have any big hangups,” Gaylord said.
He said he was surprised by the challengers’ accusation that he’s not responsive to constituents. Gaylord noted his accessibility on social media and at the events he frequently organizes and hosts.
“Could I have missed an email? Certainly,” he said, adding that he’s never heard any constituent say he’s unresponsive.
And Gaylord dismissed the notion that he’s influenced by developers and real estate brokers who donate to his campaign. It’s common for council members and candidates to receive donations from people who work in the same industry.
“Having relationships with people in Raleigh is a positive,” he said. “I would never say (Jeffreys) is only going to do things for software developers.”
Gaylord’s campaign had $163,000 entering September, $100,000 more than any council candidate. Collins had $502 and Jeffreys had $2,100.
If elected to a fourth term, Gaylord said he wants to continue pushing the city to adopt new technologies that make the government more efficient, flexible and transparent.
“Amazing things happen around the world for the cities that are most innovative,” he said.
Gaylord also wants to promote density in downtown Raleigh, advocate for a countywide transit system and increase the city’s economic development efforts.
Collins thinks the city focuses too much on recruiting tech businesses, to the detriment of other industries.
“I know a lot of friends who are contractors and plumbers and they don’t know of much city support,” he said. “We have a lot of incubators downtown, but (professionals outside the tech industry) don’t see how they fit in.”
Collins also wants to provide incentives for home ownership near underpopulated schools in Raleigh.
“The people who want to live in those areas can’t afford it and the people who can don’t want to live there,” he said.
Like Gaylord, Jeffreys said she wants to push for a countywide transit network. Otherwise, she’ll focus on protecting neighborhoods and cites her personal experience as evidence she’ll be effective.
Years ago, the city approved a developer’s request to build townhomes next to her house. The developer agreed to build single-family homes after Jeffreys sued the city, she said.
“I’m concerned that there’s very little opportunity for neighbors to become involved with tear-downs and infill houses,” Jeffreys said.
So do Collins and Jeffreys think they can win?
“I expect to get into a runoff,” Jeffreys said.
Collins was hesitant to make a prediction.
“We’re talking to a lot of voters and there’s some excitement there,” he said. “We’ve tapped into a voter base that Bonner hasn’t reached in his last few terms.”
Born: Aug. 30, 1984, Atlanta, Ga.
Occupation: administrator at Bright Horizons, an early childhood education and preschool
Political experience: none
Education: Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Shaw University
Born: Oct. 13, 1977, Raleigh.
Occupation: General Manager of North Hills shopping mall.
Political experience: Three two-year terms representing District E on the Raleigh City Council.
Education: Bachelor’s in Biology from UNC-Chapel Hill, master’s from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Born: May 30, 1961, Raleigh.
Occupation: Distinguished development tester at SAS; adjunct instructor teaching logistic systems at Wake Tech.
Political experience: none
Education: Bachelor’s in Computer Science from ECU, master’s in English from N.C. State. Two certificates in global logistics from Wake Tech Community College.