The season for campaign speculation

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday June 11, 2005

With the filing period now just a few weeks away, speculation is rampant about the upcoming municipal elections in Carrboro and Chapel Hill. Rarely have we gotten this late in the pre-election season and known so little about the prospective field.

The mayoral races are the easiest to handicap. In Chapel Hill, the position will again be Kevin Foy's if he wants it. If not, Bill Strom, a tough campaigner, looks unbeatable and might even run without opposition.

In Carrboro, Mayor Mike Nelson has said he won't be running for another term and the only affirmative steps toward a mayoral candidacy have come from Alderman Mark Chilton. This week Chilton mailed out a questionnaire to gauge voters' priorities for the town.

Should Chilton choose to run, he would be an odds-on favorite to win. He came in first among alderman candidates in 2003 with 1,709 votes, a big number for Carrboro. Chilton seems to relish an active grassroots campaign and can be expected to again be knocking on doors throughout Carrboro.

After that it gets tough, particularly given that none of the incumbents has formally announced any plans.

In Chapel Hill, Mark Kleinschmidt has indicated that he will run and no one will be surprised when he is re-elected.

Edith Wiggins has said she will probably retire. That will help black challengers with Chapel Hill voters who are committed to having racial diversity on the council. Possible candidate Bill Thorpe is a veteran of two separate stints on the council and could garner broad support, but he'll have to run a much stronger campaign than he did in a losing effort back in 1991.

Neither Ed Harrison nor Dorothy Verkerk has announced plans for seeking a second term. Both will have the advantages of incumbency. For Harrison or Verkerk to lose, there need to be some strong challengers. So far, only Laurin Easthom and Robin Cutson have publicly indicated an intention of running.

Easthom, a transportation board member, has been outspoken on a wide range of issues and appears poised for the kind of strong campaign that Sally Greene ran two years ago.

Cutson also has been outspoken on a wide range of issues, and has run a highly critical precampaign that has included attacks on funding for the Women's Center and her campaign against the Carbon Reduction Initiative of Douglas Crawford-Brown, director of the Carolina Environmental Program.

In Carrboro, Diana McDuffee says she is "98 percent sure" she will retire. Many expect both Jacquie Gist and John Herrera to seek another term as aldermen. Granting re-election to these two incumbents, one seat would be available to a challenger.

So far, only Catherine Devine has committed to running. Devine is well-known for her work on the Carrboro Music Festival and has served on several town advisory boards.

Randee Haven-O'Donnell and James Carnahan are also considering a run. Carnahan chairs the planning board. Haven-O'Donnell serves on the Horace Williams committee (along with Devine) and is active in Bolin Creek preservation efforts.

Carnahan is an ardent proponent of high-density development. Haven-O'Donnell is deeply involved with environmental preservation. These values collided not long ago with the Winmore project.

A key question for the campaign could be which candidate can articulate a vision that convincingly incorporates both.

Jeff Vanke, a 2003 write-in mayoral candidate, announced recently that he will not be running this year. That leaves the constituency identified with Vanke, Steve Rose and Jim Porto without even a speculative candidate at this time.

Similarly, the Chapel Hill constituency that rallied around fifth-place finishers Dianne Bachman in 2003 and D.R. Bryan in 2001 has not yet been heard from.

The real fun begins when filing opens at noon on July 1 with the slates finalized at noon on Aug. 5.



That's not the point I was getting out. There's nothing specific to bringing in an outsider that I was advocating. My sentence "we'd have been better off with a complete outsider" could have been replaced with "we'd have been better off replacing her with a treestump" and equally represent my opinion. It just happened to be relevent in context to refer to an outsider.

And just the same, find me an example of another southern politician who's last experience in North Carolina before running for office was pre-1960, and I'll make that exact same statement regardless of their political affiliation.

Bill, do you live in Orange County? There's no one registered to vote in Orange County by the name of William or Bill Oliver. You aren't just carpetbagging your way onto this site are you?

Mark, it's quite possible that Mr. Oliver is registered in Chatham or Durham counties.

I think that's the point, Will.

Councilmember Ed Harrison is not registered to vote in Orange County. He lives in Durham County, in the town limits of Chapel Hill. Therefore his registration is in Durham County. This may also be the case for Bill Oliver.

Any search for records involving a name must be done carefully, accounting for nicknames, use of middle name as preferred name, and consideration of geographical quirks, such as part of Chapel Hill being in Durham County, or a Chapel Hill mailing address applied to significant parts of Chatham County.

Andrea, I'm not jumping to conclusions. I am just asking Bill to clarify the situation. There could be a number of other explanations such as that he is not a citizen or is simply not registered at all.

For what it is worth, the three people named William Oliver who are registered in Durham County do not live in the part that is in Chapel Hill. Those three William Olivers are registered as 1 democrat, 1 republican, and 1 unaffiliated. All three are listed by the Board of Elections as African Americans. Is one of these three our "Bill Oliver"?

We won't know until he graces us with a response. Perhaps he is out of town for the holiday weekend.

WillR, Thanks for asking. I'm not running for anything. I watch 2 little kids full-time, and I work part-time online some evenings. I'm looking to reduce my load, not increase it.

That said, calling all Carrboro opposition people -- you can actually run and win in this election. My 41% off the ballot in 2003 taught me how much room there is for a good coalition of people in favor of good government that preserves calm streets in neighborhoods, leaves through-roads out of King Park by Fair Oaks, doesn't use circular argumentation about 20-year-old plans, etc.

Jeff, I can sympathize with your workload - and I know you wouldn't want to go into an election half-prepared.

We had a write-in for Mayor last cycle but the outcome was distinctly different than yours.

I like Mayor Foy but it'd be nice if someone stepped forward and challenged him if for no other reason than to bring his positions into sharp relief. I felt, last cycle, that the Mayor wasn't called upon to focus his rhetoric as much as he was allowed to present a generalized overview of the issues. The electorate probably got a more of a feel for the Mayor - "the cut of his jib" so to speak - than a specific idea of where he wanted to take the Town.

Of course, maybe I should be satisfied with not having a tussle for the Mayoral position - it just seems like every election (maybe twice over for Price) should be contested to help bring this focus.

Mark, what am I clarifying for you? and why?

I don't understand why Bill Olivers voter registration or even his home residence make a difference. There are certainly any number of people who have opinions and influence on local politics who neither vote or live here, including business people, university affiliates, prospective residents/business owners, Chatham/Durham/Alamance residents/business owners, etc. Should everyone be asked to divvy up their bona fides? He passed the test required of the forum owner by providing a legitimate email address.

Terri, I follow your point. People were throwing the word "carpet bagger" around. I have been curious about the source of Bill's interest in local government in Orange County because I could find no evidence of his connection to Orange County. Ruby has called him a troll before and that term would be apt if he has no real stake in Orange politics (other than to use this site to raise people's blood pressure). So I am just asking: Bill, do you live in Orange County? Do you work here?

Just curious.

Mark, all the answers to your questions are contained in my previous posts. I'm not going to do your detective work for you.

As far carpetbaggers, that came up because JasonB said that because Elizabeth Dole was not around NC during the civil rights movement, we would be better off with an "outsider."

A "carpetbagger", by definition, is a Northerner who came South after the civil war ( I am not a carpetbagger. Technically, I am a scalawag (

PS: Terri, thanks for the kind words.


In Chapel Hill mayoral politics in 2003, and perhaps this year, I think people are just very intimidated by the $25,000 Foy spent in 2001, matched by his losing opponent.

Either some money, or an inordinate amount of door-to-door time, is certainly needed for a successful campaign in C.H. (presuming the candidate is in synch with the voters on some fundamental points).

But too many people feel too intimidated by incumbents around these parts. Networks and coalitions are not as important as they first seem. (I knew, count 'em, about 15 voters in Carrboro 10 weeks before election day 2003.)

The main thing to feel intimidated about is newspaper endorsements, because a large percentage of voters make their decisions based on those. Still, if I could get 41% in Carrboro, not on the ballot, not endorsed by either newspaper in the endorsement business, policy-viable candidates should not fear well financed incumbency. Progressive outsider challengers should go for it.

Privilege fee observation -
I know this is a multi-stranded thread and it appears to actually be on-topic now, but it's the only place to register this observation since the topic was broached earlier. And who knows - maybe a Carraboro candidate may address common sense taxation in the campaign...

Anyway - my cost for a Carrboro privilege license is $10. I can't imagine that it doesn't cost more than $10 to levy the fee. So I guess one solution from a straight financial perspective would be to raise the fee so it actually adds to the revenue stream. Of course, those privileged few like myself would still be left to unpleasantly wonder what a "privilege" license is and why no-one will tell us what exactly it buys for us.

Mark, is now a good time to bring up Chapel Hill's Stormwater Fee?

Mark, the privilege license does not "buy" anything, it is a tax pure and simple.

Anytime I hear of a carpetbagger politician, I remember the
extremely funny story told by Rudy Juliani on the Letterman
show just after Hillary had decided to run for senator from
New York. Rudy told this story:

I'm gonna go down to Little Rock, call a press conference and
tell anybody who'll listen: I wasn't born in Arkansas. I wasn't
raised in Arkansas. I didn't go to school in Arkansas. I've
never lived in Arkansas. My family doesn't live in Arkansas.
Before this trip, I've never even been to Arkansas. As a matter
of fact, I really don't know anything about Arkansas. But
wouldn't it be really cool if I could be your senator?

I don't think that even qualifies as moderately funny, but to each his own.

More than not funny, it's not even remotely relevant. Furthermore, Hillary has proven to be a popular and effective Senator for the state of New York.

She is also a remarkably kind and thoughtful person. ( which is entirely off topic, but I always feel the need to defend her.) I'm not what any of this has to do with Mr. Oliver.

( Sorry Bill, you lost any of my support at Fox News. )

Like I care, Katrina.

Hey everyone, let's agree to disagree but we can still be polite.

I hope that other readers will follow Bill's example and not bother caring about his posts. You can even go one better and not reply to them, either.

Ruby, you must care. Why else would you have posted a reply? Don't you want to "hear my voice"?

DTH Thursday edition Chapel Hill election coverage



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