Durham Picks Three New Council Members, Votes Out Incumbent Cora Cole-McFadden | News

Durham Picks Three New Council Members, Votes Out Incumbent Cora Cole-McFadden


The Durham City Council is going to look a lot different beginning next month.

Not only did voters in Tuesday's municipal election pick the city's first new mayor in sixteen years, Steve Schewel, they also voted in new representatives in all three wards on the ballot.

Two incumbents had sought reelection: Ward 3's Don Moffitt, who was eliminated in the October primary, and Ward 1's Cora-Cole McFadden, who was defeated Tuesday by challenger DeDreana Freeman.

Ward 2 representative Eddie Davis did not seek reelection. That seat was won Tuesday by Mark-Anthony Middleton. Attorney Vernetta Alston will represent Ward 3. They'll join at-large members Jillian Johnson and Charlie Reece, both elected in 2015, and whoever is appointed to fill Schewel's unexpired term on the council.

Freeman, a planning commissioner and special assistant to the director of the East Durham Children's Initiative, won 54 percent of the vote, compared with Cole-McFadden's 45 percent.

Cole-McFadden had served on the council for sixteen years and was the first African-American woman to lead a city department and the first black woman to serve as the council's mayor pro tem.

The two had been engaged in a tight race. In the October primary, Freeman beat Cole-McFadden by about thirteen hundred votes, no small feat given how handily Cole-McFadden has won elections in the past.

Freeman watched the election results at the Quarter Horse arcade, along with Ward 2 candidate John Rooks Jr. (both had been endorsed by the People's Alliance). With about half of precincts reporting, the two said they were waiting until every result was in before judging their races. They were, however, relieved to have a long and jam-packed campaign season done.

Each said they had been to at least twelve precincts that day, and thanked their supporters for their time, donations and messages of encouragement. "God bless you all," Freeman said.
John Rooks and DeDreana Freeman
  • John Rooks and DeDreana Freeman

Cole-McFadden attended a watch party hosted by the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, which had endorsed her.  “What a loss for the city of Durham," she told the crowd, according to the Herald-Sun. But, she said, she's blessed to be leaving alongside Bell, "the greatest mayor who ever served Durham.”

In the Ward 2 race, Rooks won about 43 percent of votes to Middleton's 57.

Middleton, a minister and Durham CAN member, also served on task forces to vet a new police chief for Durham and detention center director.

Rooks is a data engineer whose antiviolence work in the McDougald Terrace public housing neighborhood inspired residents there to lobby on his behalf during the People’s Alliance endorsement meeting. Ultimately, the PA endorsed Rooks over Middleton, who had been recommended by the PA’s endorsement committee.

"A lot of votes were turned right at the polls," said Rooks, who won 31 percent in the primary.

Middleton also attended the Durham Committee party. After a day of rest, he said he will get to work holding "governing conversations" in the community, beginning with clergy.
Shea Ramirez, Mark-Anthony Middleton and Shelia Ann Huggins
  • Shea Ramirez, Mark-Anthony Middleton and Shelia Ann Huggins

"The election is over. It's time to come together to focus on our challenges and opportunities," he told the INDY.

In Ward 3, Alston beat out attorney and former city employee Shelia Ann Huggins. Alston's supporters gathered at Surf Club, while Huggins joined fellow Durham Committee candidates in Golden Belt.

Speaking as the party wrapped up, Huggins said the most unexpected aspect of her campaign experience was the friendships she forged with fellow candidates. She and Shea Ramirez, who had been a candidate for mayor, are now working on an initiative to get more women to run for office in North Carolina.

Council members will be sworn in on December 4.

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