Durham City Council member Cora Cole-McFadden says she will be seeking reelection to her Ward 1 seat in the fall, rather than running for mayor.
Cole-McFadden made the brief announcement at the start of the council's regular meeting Monday night.
Mayor Bill Bell had endorsed Cole-McFadden for the upcoming mayoral race. After eight terms as mayor, Bell has decided not to seek reelection. City Council member Steve Schewel also announced plans to run for mayor.
Cole-McFadden's current term on the council expires this year, so a mayoral bid would have left her Ward 1 seat up for grabs. Schewel's term doesn't expire until 2019, so if his bid for mayor is unsuccessful, he would retain his council seat.
On Monday, former City Council member Farad Ali joined the mayoral race.
When asked about her decision Monday night, Cole-McFadden said the Ward 1 seat needs a representative with the kind of history she has with her hometown. Born at Duke Hospital, Cole-McFadden was the city's first black female department head and first black female mayor pro tem, a position she currently holds. She was elected to the city council in 2001.
"It's important to have institutional knowledge and it's important to have the voice for people that we seem to forget live here," she said. Cole-McFadden said she feels she could be that voice in either the Ward 1 seat or the mayor's seat but "this is what I want to do."
"I did wrestle with it but I know I'm doing the right thing," she said. "It was just a real blessing to get the endorsement of the mayor."
Cole-McFadden on Monday wasn't ready to throw her support behind another candidate.
"I think there will be a more expansive field of folks running," she said, noting filing for the October 10 primary doesn't begin until July.
Schewel said he will run the same campaign regardless of who his opponents are; he also expects the field to grow. He said he was surprised to hear Cole-McFadden's announcement.
"Cora is a terrific colleague and she would have been a very tough opponent in the mayor's race," he said. "She and I are good friends and good colleagues and will always remain so."
Ali has served as chair of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport Authority, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, as well as other posts.
Cole-McFadden said no matter who challenges her in the Ward 1 race, she will "run hard" to "keep the sanity in this seat."
DeDreana Freeman announced in February that she would be running for the Ward 1 seat. Freeman is the Precinct 17 chair of the Durham Democratic Party, a member of the city-county Planning Commission and the president of the Inter-Neighborhood Council of Durham, among other affiliations.
Cole-McFadden was unopposed in her last bid for the Ward 1 seat in 2013.
The council's Ward 2 and 3 seats are also up for reelection this year. Ward 2's Eddie Davis announced at a March 6 council meeting that he would not be seeking reelection. Councilman Don Moffitt, Ward 3, told the News & Observer
he will run to keep his seat.