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New "hellions"

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There's a new player in the Durham political game, just in time to ante up for the city's fall elections.

Durham First, a new political action committee, is targeting four key issues--development, crime, schools and financial accountability in government. The group joins four leading issue-oriented PACs that span the political spectrum in the Bull City.

"The message is: Something is wrong here, and we can do something about it," says Bill Nasso, a newcomer to Durham politics with a history of self-described "rabble-rousing" in Wake County.

The new PAC has about a dozen other active members so far. Leaders, including Citizens Against Urban Sprawl Everywhere (CAUSE) organizer Steve Bocckino, and Sierra Club activist Ed Harrison, registered their group officially on May 24 with a $100 bank account deposit. Since then, they've been raising funds among friends for their first big project--a professional poll.

The voice of pro-growth, pro-business interests is the only voice that's clear enough and loud enough to reach elected officials, Nasso says. Durham First aims to change that by presenting scientific data supporting a different agenda.

Nasso, a marketing professional who's used similar political polls in Raleigh and Cary, describes new PAC members as "hellions" who will, "make it a little more of a risk to be uninvolved as an elected official." His own political resume includes an unsuccessful run for Raleigh City Council in 1993 and managing a council race for Cary Mayor Glen Lang.

Durham First members say there's a lot of angst among Bull City residents, who have a new city manager, lots of new development, and have suffered a barrage of government misadventures, such as evaporating sewer and water fund revenues.

"Grassroots is not going to win this election," says Bocckino. "Strategic action, early action is needed. And I think we will find that a lot of people in Durham agree on things."

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