Two of Durham's three most influential PACs have released their endorsements for the 2017 primary elections.
Both Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and Friends of Durham are backing Farad Ali for mayor. Ali is a former city councilman and the CEO of The Institute, a management consulting firm with a focus on promoting diversity.
Ali is facing six contenders in the October 10 primary: Steve Schewel, Pierce Freelon, Sylvester Williams, Tracy Drinker, and Shea Ramirez. (Schewel currently holds an at-large seat on the council and will retain his seat if he is not elected mayor).
The two PACs also agree on their picks for the Ward 1 and Ward 2 seats: Cora Cole-McFadden, who has held the Ward 1 seat since 2001, and Mark-Anthony Middleton, a pastor and Durham CAN member looking to fill the Ward 2 seat being vacated by councilman Eddie Davis.
In Ward 3, however, Friends of Durham is backing incumbent Don Moffitt, while DCABP is endorsing Shelia Ann Huggins, an attorney and former city employee.
(You can read about all the candidates running for office here
. DCABP forums with city council and mayoral candidates held last week can be viewed on the Facebook.
Alice Sharpe, chairwoman of the Friends of Durham, says more explanation for the group's endorsements will be available on its website
next week. "The Friends of Durham believe that this slate will bring balance to the City Council and further the best interests of Durham citizens and the City of Durham," Sharpe wrote in an email.
The group's backing of Ali makes sense, as both have an economic development focus.
"We seek to achieve a 'One Durham,' a City of people that work, a city of people that are diverse, a city of people that inspire and innovate, a city of people that will thrive, balancing opportunities and strengthening the quality of life for all," Ali's campaign website reads.
According to campaign finance reports, Ali's campaign has raised $59,881.12, including $500 from Bell, $500 from Sharpe, $500 from Phail Wynn (the VP of Durham and Regional Affairs at Duke), and $2,500 from Raleigh developer John Kane. His largest donation, $5,200, came from Al Limaye, CEO of a large New Jersey-based software consulting firm.
While Ali and Freelon, a musician and entrepreneur, are nearly neck and neck in fundraising (Freelon has pulled in $59,844), Schewel has raised $14,617. There are no reports available for Ramirez, Drinker, or Williams. The next reporting deadline is September 5.
The DCABP's picks are based on candidate questionnaires, interviews, and two forums it held. Its selection criteria included leadership, experience, skills in fundraising, relationship building, communication, and organizing; familiarity with the DCABP community and commitment to its priorities; and an understanding of economics and tenacity.
The third PAC, People's Alliance, whose picks tend to go on to win, will release its endorsements following an August 29 meeting. Responses to questionnaires sent to each candidate by the People's Alliance can be found here
Schewel was backed by the People's Alliance in his reelection campaign in 2015. (Disclosure: Schewel founded the INDY
and sold it in 2012). Several city council candidates have PA ties: DeDreana Freeman, who is running for the Ward 1 seat, and Vernetta Alston, who is seeking the Ward 3 seat, are both former board members. PA backed Cole-McFadden and Moffitt in 2013.
On September 13, Durham for All, We Dream in Black, Raise Up, and UE 150 are holding a mayoral and council candidate forum.