Farad Ali wanted to have a community gathering and not just "another speech" to kick off his campaign for mayor of Durham. So Tuesday night, he addressed a crowd at Forest Hills Park. It’s not just "another park" either, Ali said.
“This park is in between affluent and less affluent neighborhoods. It’s in the middle. We’re all here,” Ali said. “We’re so much stronger together.”
Cole del Charco
Farad Ali kicks off his campaign for mayor of Durham Tuesday at Forest Hills Park.
Ali is one of four candidates to announce a bid for mayor of Durham. The other three are Pierce Freelon, an entrepreneur, professor, and musician,; Steve Schewel, a city council member since 2011, former school board member, and activist who founded the Independent Weekly;
and Shea Ramirez, who runs a tax preparation agency and a talent agency.
After current Mayor Bill Bell announced in 2016 that he wouldn’t be running for reelection, the race for mayor was expected to be between council members Cora Cole-McFadden and Schewel. That changed on April 3, when Cole-McFadden announced that, instead of running for mayor, she would run to keep her Ward 1 seat. The same day, Ali declared his mayoral candidacy via a statement that included thanks to Bell and Cole-McFadden for their service to Durham.
The four-person field could still grow; the filing period for the 2017 municipal elections doesn’t open until July 7.
Cole-McFadden, who was endorsed by Bell before she decided to drop her candidacy, has yet to support a candidate. She was at Ali’s campaign event Tuesday night. Bell was also in attendance.
“I haven’t formally endorsed anyone, but when the time comes I will,” Cole-McFadden said. “Durham is a great place, and we have good candidates running, and Farad is among those.”
Ali served on the Durham City Council from 2007–11 and has served as the chairman of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport Authority, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce.
During Ali’s time on the council, the city was tasked with balancing economic and community development. His platform, dubbed “One Durham,” emphasizes equity and inclusiveness.
“I think there’s a way that when we work on economic development, we also include community development in that space, and we also look at human development,” Ali said. “You don’t just do one independent of the other.”
The crowd at Forest Hills Park in Durham was, in Ali’s words, “white, black, gay, and straight.” Among the supporters was Hampton Dellinger, who said he was a longtime friend of Ali’s.
“I helped him out on his run for city council, and when he was running for the first time as a candidate he was running and people thought it was going to be a tough race,” Dellinger said. “He’s someone who knows how challenging campaigns can be to prevail in, and he’s not running lightly, he knows how to win in Durham, and I think a lot of people were hoping he would run.”
Ali has said that, if elected, his priorities would include reducing crime, building trust between police and the community, bolstering job training, increasing home ownership, and reducing poverty.
“Durham has a lot of things that are great,” he said Tuesday, “but we need to keep fighting to make them great.”