In Durham County, where all five commissioners' seats are open, we reiterate our endorsement of the four incumbents, Joe Bowser, Philip Cousin, Becky Heron and Ellen Reckhow. They work together effectively and provide good leadership in these tough economic times, but they are not interchangeable--offering a breadth of perspectives across a wide swath of issues facing Durham. For the fifth seat, The Independent makes no endorsement, though Democrat Mary Jacobs, a former city council member and the top vote-getter in the September primary, is a shoo-in to win. Jacobs' forceful commitment to economic development, evidenced by her strong support from the building community, causes progressives concern about the costs of growth to ordinary citizens.
In addition to the five Democrats, five Libertarians are also seeking commissioners' seats on Nov. 5: Dwight Ennis, Laurin Mancour, Stephen Messer, Hal Noyes and Michael Owen. Of the five, only Mancour showed an understanding of Durham's issues in her questionnaire, and overall their qualifications for office do not warrant the ousting of the incumbents.
To represent Durham in the State House, The Independent endorses incumbent Democratic senators Wib Gulley (District 18) and Jeanne Lucas (District 20) and representatives Paul Luebke (District 30), Mickey Michaux (District 31) and Paul Miller (District 29). All five have been strong voices for Durham's citizens in Raleigh, especially Gulley in his activism on campaign finance reform and Miller in his freshman-term battles to close down predatory lending practices. All five face Libertarian challengers who lack political experience, and Gulley also faces Republican Tom Davidson, a conservative real estate broker, agri-business advocate and former Agriculture Commissioner candidate. In House District 32, where incumbent Democrat Jim Crawford faces Republican challenger and Bahama resident Sallie Edwards-Pickett and Libertarian candidate Barbara Howe, The Independent makes no endorsement. Crawford, a conservative Democrat from Oxford, is new to representing Durham, thanks to the Republican-controlled redistricting earlier this year.
In the nonpartisan race for the first of two seats open in District 14 in Durham, incumbent Ann McKown has won praise for her demeanor and her focus on women's issues. She's more experienced than her opponent, Anita Smith, and has a more extensive record of community service. McKown is a supporter of mediation, substance abuse and other programs that she says can help the courts better address crime. She also favors merit selection of judges to end "expensive" elections and restore public confidence in the judiciary.
For the Titus seat, William Marsh, a former assistant legal counsel to Gov. Jim Hunt, has the better approach to issues facing the "gateway" courts. His opponent, attorney James Hill, is viewed as too pro-business by some local attorneys, and voices only weak support for programs such as alternative sentencing and community restitution. By contrast, Marsh sees such programs as key to preventing people from getting caught in "escalating criminal behavior." He supports more coordination between the courts and local substance abuse and job training programs. Marsh has had a wide range of experiences as an assistant city attorney in Washington, D.C. and as a partner in Marsh & Marsh. In addition to his individual merits, his candidacy offers voters another chance to put an African-American on the court.