Endorsed in Raleigh City Council races

From left, Raleigh city attorney Thomas McCormick, council members Mary-Ann Baldwin, Dickie Thompson, David Cox, Russ Stephenson, Corey Branch and Kay Crowder socialize before the Raleigh City Council meets in its chambers in downtown Raleigh on Dec. 1, 2015.
From left, Raleigh city attorney Thomas McCormick, council members Mary-Ann Baldwin, Dickie Thompson, David Cox, Russ Stephenson, Corey Branch and Kay Crowder socialize before the Raleigh City Council meets in its chambers in downtown Raleigh on Dec. 1, 2015. cseward@newsobserver.com

The News & Observer today offers its editorial board’s recommendations in the races for district seats on the Raleigh City Council. A strong group of incumbents gets our endorsement, though as always some worthy challengers have come forward. That said, most residents seem to like the direction in which the city is going.

District A— Dickie Thompson

This is a North Raleigh district, ably represented by incumbent council member Dickie Thompson, 63. Member of an old Raleigh family long in the construction business, Thompson is an affable, genuine, studious person who is diligent about his council duties, whether that means studying and understanding complex zoning issues or answering a constituent’s need for help. Thompson’s opponent Alex Moore is like other longshot candidates emphasizing a tighter budget, but his campaign has been very low-profile. Thompson’s been active in seeking solutions to the affordable housing problem, transit challenges and the purchase and development of Dix Park, and has been a steadfast progressive member of the council. Chairman of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport Authority, Thompson’s got bona fides as a longtime community activist. He’s an excellent civic leader.

District B — David Cox

David Cox, 59, came to the council two years ago as an opponent of a neighborhood fight against a grocery store in this East-Northeast district. A “computer research guy,” Cox has gotten something of a reputation as someone not afraid to stir contention on the council, and he’s a neighborhood advocate who needs to be careful not to neglect the citywide picture. And, Cox needs to work more closely with other council members, should he win another term, for which we endorse him. There is a place on the council, however, for someone who likes to differ with the majority.

We have supported Cox’s opponent, former council member John Odom, in the past, but Odom, who narrowly lost to Cox two years ago, hasn’t run a very high-profile campaign this time around, and we’d like to see how Cox puts his experience to use in a second term.

District C — Corey Branch

Incumbent Corey Branch, 39, stunned many in his Southeast Raleigh district two years ago when he ousted Eugene Weeks, a veteran council member and one of district’s old guard leaders. Branch is enthusiastic, studious, effective in speaking his mind on important positions and interested in the challenges in this district, which is a target for gentrification – but that comes with pluses and minuses. Many of Branch’s constituents are part of neighborhoods transformed in recent years by Raleigh’s booming growth and the desire on the part of younger citizens for upscale housing. But Branch has to stay attuned to the worries of some in his district that they are being displaced with few other housing options available to those with limited incomes. We believe Branch has shown himself capable of being a strong advocate for his constituents, which is his first priority, but that he has an understanding of the city’s overall needs.

He has two opponents, Olen Watson and Crash Gregg, independent business people who are congenial and articulate. But Branch now has a record and potential for a higher leadership profile.

Distrct D — Kay Crowder

This incumbent is Kay Crowder, 61, who was appointed to the seat on the death of her husband, longtime council member Thomas Crowder. Like her husband, Crowder prides herself on being a neighborhood protector in this Southwest Raleigh district, but she is an outgoing, open-minded council member who approaches issues in a studious, detail-oriented fashion. It’s hard to find any issue, whether it’s affordable housing or zoning or transit options, on which Crowder is not well-informed. Yes, she’s conservative when it comes to approving new developments or those projects “outside the box,” but that’s OK. Raleigh needs some different voices on the council belonging to people who are not predictable. Crowder has well-earned another term.

District E — Bonner Gaylord

Sure, four-term incumbent Bonner Gaylord, 39, might be pegged as a reliable ally of developers from this North-Northwest Raleigh seat. After all, he’s the general manager of the North Hills properties of megadeveloper John Kane. That is a credible concern. But we are endorsing Gaylord for another term because in the last eight years, he’s shown an eagerness to learn and a growing understanding of the issues facing the city. He can be a valued ally of those on the council who are concerned about developing more affordable housing, for example. And he seems open to all ideas from a cross-section of constituents.

Challenger Stef Mendell, a communications consultant, is, like some previous Gaylord opponents, emphasizing affordable housing and the need for a council member to advocate for average citizens. She’s a most credible challenger, but Gaylord gets our support because of his experience.

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