An unusual group of candidates

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday August 13, 2005

Now that the candidates are known, Chapel Hillians can expect a different kind of Town Council campaign this year. The old green/green split that has marked town politics for the past decade has not emerged in this year's field. By "green/green," I mean environment vs. profits.

Among this year's challengers, only Laurin Easthom is explicitly running on bread-and-butter environmental and neighborhood protection issues (although her campaign Web site lists a raft of other concerns). At this juncture, no candidate is clearly identified with a business constituency.

Another difference in this year's race is the weakness of the field. Along with 2001, when only one incumbent sought re-election, this is the least experienced group of candidates in many years. Only two incumbents are on the ballot and, among the challengers only Easthom and Will Raymond currently serve on town advisory boards.

Several candidates are difficult to pigeonhole, exemplifying the unusual nature of this campaign. Consider Raymond, for example. Though his background is in business, he has spoken out for neighborhoods and has criticized UNC growth plans. But his campaign focus appears to be on bringing greater scrutiny to the town budget and on improving its technological infrastructure.

Race and ethnicity form another unusual dimension in this campaign. Since the 1950s, there has been a consistent black presence on the council. Nonetheless, racism continues to dog the 11 percent of Chapel Hill's population that is African American (as of 2000 census).

Former Town Council-member Bill Thorpe can make a case that his voice is needed to ensure that these concerns are addressed. But to win, Thorpe will have to articulate a platform that speaks broadly to today's Chapel Hillians.

Tanya Riemer, of mixed European-Honduran descent, may be the candidate of the 3.5 percent of Chapel Hillians who are Hispanic. This, however, is a constituency that has not yet emerged in a coherent form in Chapel Hill politics. Riemer seems sincerely interested in empowering the Hispanic community but one must wonder whether the Chapel Hill Town Council is the best place to do it.

Riemer's candidacy is reminiscent of the 2001 run for alderman of John Herrera, her one-time boss at Durham's Latino Community Credit Union (Riemer now works for Bank of America). Both entered their respective campaigns without prior experience in local politics. A search of the town minutes does not turn up a single instance of Riemer appearing before the council.

Jason Baker is the latest student hoping to replicate Mark Chilton's 1991 accomplishment of winning election while an undergraduate. Chilton was both student liaison to town government and a leader with the Student Environmental Action Coalition. The wave of environmental enthusiasm following the 20th anniversary of Earth Day helped cinch his fourth-place victory. Without those advantages and with no experience with town government, Baker faces an even greater challenge in finding votes.

Walker Rutherfurd also appears to plan a student-candidate campaign despite graduating in 2004. As a Republican, he will be hard-pressed to surpass the 746 votes for Mike McSwain in 2003.

The past few election cycles have shown that neighborhood protection and the environment are the top concerns of Chapel Hill voters.

If that trend continues, it's not hard to make a post-filing, pre-campaign prediction. Incumbent Mark Kleinschmidt will lead the field, followed by Easthom. Both have strong credentials on environmental and neighborhood issues.

Thorpe must run a much better campaign then he did in his losing 1991 effort. If he does, he could finish among the top three. That leaves Raymond challenging incumbent Ed Harrison for fourth place.

I wouldn't count Tanya Riemer out just yet.

Her challenge will be to broaden her social justice agenda beyond the Hispanic community in a manner that speaks to Chapel Hill's neighborhood and environmental constituencies. Her lack of experience will be tough to overcome but, if others falter, she could have a shot.

Baker's hustle should be enough for seventh place, leaving Robin Cutson in eighth and Rutherfurd far out of the running.

Of course that's just one perspective as formed in mid-August. There are still three months to Election Day.



I generally agree with this analysis, except I think that Jason Baker may impress quite a few folks once we start hearing more from him in the campaign. He is thoughtful, articulate, and increasingly knowledgeable.

For those of us who would like to see a stronger student voice in local issues, he's a very appealing choice.

I agree: Kleinschmidt, Harrison, Easthom, and Thorpe. Anything different would require shaking things up and making voters care.

I'm just going to drop this in as a side note. If you ever want to really get "plugged in" to a community, run for office. The number of phone calls and invitations you'll receive is mind blowing. I've been invited to chat with everybody from university brass to the heritage foundation ( creepy!) It's a fascinating experience, very, very different from national politics.

Mary, are you saying you're voting for Harrison or just that you think he'll win? Either way, I'm inclined to disagree. But as Dan says, it's early...

First off, thanks for the kind words Ruby. I've been spending the past few weeks working on the "increasingly knowledgable" part. It's fortunate that there are so many online resources for Chapel Hill candidates - between CHN, DTH, OP, the town Agenda and Minutes, IndyWeek, etc., there's no shortage of sources for me to use to continue my local education. :) But beyond that, lots of folks have been kind enough to spare me their time to tell me what they want to see improved in this town and possible ways we might go about reaching that change. Lately, reading the news (past and present) has become a full-time job for me.

To comment briefly... I think at the beginning of the campaign, this isn't a bad analysis. To claim that I'm anything but an underdog would be pointless, but I know this, and I know how much harder that means I'm going to have to work for a seat. I also agree with Dan that, hopefully, two of the main issues in this election are neighborhood and environmental protection, because I think those are two issues where I come down on the right side. Just because I attend a particular university doesn't mean I don't worry about the impact that poor planning on the part of that university might have on its community. I do have some environmental credentials, through helping to develop an environmentally friendly purchasing policy for UNC, especially as it pertains to new construction and rennovation. But additionally, I think my leadership in the UNC Young Democrats and statewide College Dems has helped me get a better grasp on a wide range of issues.

I hope when Chapel Hill residents look to add a variety to the council, they acknowedge that race is only a small part of what diversity means. Age, income, and other socio-economic factors differentiate us just as much, probably more. I won't claim that I should automatically be the "low-income choice" just because I'm a poor student, because to do so is dishonest and serves to do little besides factionalizing the town. But I think the point-of-view I bring to the table is worthwhile and certainly worthy of being one of nine voices that steer the council, and I hope to prove this to voters in the next three months.


I'm saying that I predict Harrison, Kleinschmidt, Easthom, and Thorpe will win. I could be wrong, but I think the larger community will perceive these four as being the four most qualified candidates.

Unfortunately, I cannot vote in Chapel Hill.

I never would have had the time in college to run for council..The time committement alone is amazing and something I can't comprehend. UNC is a tough place.

There are very few votes to separate Mark K. from Ed H. but there are a couple I can think of. I guess it really depends on who knows about the voting differences and what people think of them.. Personally - Mark K.s positions are beyond reproach and represent the citizenry well.

I would make an argument that Laurin Easthom is the most qualified challenger who holds positions that would represent the citizenry very well. Particularly should any tough negotiations with a dash of PR on the Town's side need to take place.

Some of the long timers have not had kind things to say about Thorpe - and I hope his positions are made clear to the public at some point???

I couldn't vote for Ms Riemer - never so much as an appearance in Town Hall. I'd assume her adivsors would tell her to go make an appearance at some point?

I would say how the students turn out - or don't will determine the 4th slot.

It was a weak field in 1991 when I first got elected. That is part of how I got elected. The 2005 field is stronger than the one I was running in back in 1991. Good luck to all of the candidates (although luck will have almost nothing to do with it).

now, deep into the trivia game -- who was the only Chapel Hill Town Board candidate to run along with three different student candidates in three different decades--

answer -- Bill Thorpe

he ran along with me in the 70s, same election as Mark Chilton in 1991, and now running with Jason Baker in 2005. Perhaps Thorpe's candidacy will be a harbinger for Baker.


You are hereby officially dubbed a "wonk."

Where did you dig that up?


I think Gerry is a wonk, but the comment above hardly qualifies him.

1. He remembers that HE RAN alongside Bill. (These things are hard to forget, trust me.)
2. He notices that Bill is currently running, as is Jason.
3. He notes from a recent comment on another thread that Bill ran with Mark in 1991.

It's not rocket surgery. ;)

Ruby is 100% correct.

I will add that is is VERY HARD to forget running in the same campaign with Bill Thorpe.

Hey Dan,

I was trying to track down an e-mail address for you. The Orange County Democratic women are having a candidates forum for Chapel Hill candidates. Would you be interested and able to serve as moderator?

This is a tough one, huh, Dan?

I'm serious, BTW, Dan.

I think Dan is out of town this week.

Seems about right thus far.

But, as I've been saying, don't count out the student vote. We haven't heard as much from Walker yet, but I know he's a bright kid who seems genuinely concerned about his home town. He will be hard-pressed for votes, yes, but he'll at least beat out McSwain. (Or at least run a better campaign!)

And Jason is showing that a lack of experience doesn't translate into a dearth of ideas. Just on this board, he's beens smart, humble, pragmatic and thoughtful. Seems to me like a good combination.

I've no idea yet whether I'll ultimately support either one of them this fall -- I'm trying to keep an open mind, and the last thing I want to see happen is students voting for a student candidate "just because." Hopefully, though, their presence on the ballot gets more students to care. I know it's something a lot of campus groups will stress -- a lot more, I bet, than in 2001 or 2003.

Of course, you are serious, but why make something straightforward and clean, messy?

A more professional way for the OCDW to approach Dan would be to have the OCDW Program Director or Chair call Dan and ask privately.

A candidate for office offering this opportunity on a blog is unnecessarily compromising, don't you think?

Our president, Samantha, is out of town, unexpectedly, and asked me, as treasurer, to make contact for her. I don't have direct contact info for Dan. And this is for the Chapel Hill forum, which as a Carrboro candidate, I won't be participating in.

We're running on really short notice, and I was winging it.

Dan writes, "The old green/green split that has marked town politics for the past decade has not emerged in this year's field. By "green/green," I mean environment vs. profits."

Do people really believe that candidates in the past decade could be sorted out by using this categorization? Of course, I'm not really sure what either label really means, but just as he has rejected the pro-anti UNC construct, this one seems to have the same lack of usefulness.

Katrina, a simple Google search reveals several hits including Dan's e-mail and phone number. Plus I'd guess he's probably in the book. Finally, any of the authors on OP can be reached using the contact us link on every page.

While we're on the subject of ineffective ways to reach people... please do not call or ask me for candidate e-mail addresses, folks. I would never give out any of the information that we use for verifying comments here. Their phone numbers are all clearly listed by the county, so why ask me for an address when you can ask them?

Thanks, Ruby. I actually used the BOA to search initially, but there were two Dan Colemans and I didn't know which was him.

He e-mailed me. Thanks All.


I'm not sure if this is the right place to post this, but I was wondering if anyone was familiar with any cities/towns that have done away with individual sewer/water fees. Basically, the idea is that the cost to the city to keep track of the billing, etc., exceeds what it would cost just to let everyone use as much as they want. I've read of similar studies for telephone plans (this could also be applied to cable, broadband internet, etc.) and the usage didn't go up that much.

This is stemming from the recent New Yorker article on "moral hazard" theory that ruins health care and other services. This seems like it would be an interesting part of a green/green (save money, and because you address water/sewer usage as a systematic problem rather than individual, and the enivronment) solution to CH's problems.


Just an FYI. My website is up and running. It will include a weekly survey on public policy topics.

Thanks to Rik Faith for his work and patience.

The local Sierra Club has scheduled three televised candidates forums:

For Carrboro: Monday, Sept 19th, 7pm Carrboro Town Hall.
For Hillsborough: Thurs, Sept 22nd, 7:30pm, Battle Courtroom
For Chapel Hill: Tues, Sept 27th, 7pm, CH Town Hall

The Sierra Club political committee is soliciting questions
to ask the candidates. If you would like to submit one,
please mail it to Joe Capowski at

Be careful Joe! In the 2003 CAN forum, the most requested question had to do with school merger. I asked it and I'm sure you remember the reaction that was posted here under Frustrating Forums

As I remember, the question was something like, "Even though the Town Council won't decide this issue, people want to know where you stand on the merger question."

Still think it was a legitmate question.

Thanks for the warning Fred. All we're doing is asking
for questions, with the attitude that this gives us a larger
pool of questions to select from. We will run the forum
and we will make the final decisions on questions to ask.

You may also remember that in the 2004 Sierra Club
forum for County Commissioners, we did not ask or
accept any audience questions about school merger.
What was interesting was that we rejected several
merger questions thinly disguised as environmental, such
as (approximately) "If the schools merge, won't the buses
have to drive further, thus polluting the air more? "


Since Groundswell Sierra endorsed more Board candidates than Board openings for the 2005 internal Sierra Club elections, will the Sierra Club now allow multiple endorsements for local candidates?

When you interviewed me before endorsing Nelson (and thanks again for the courtesy of considering a write-in), you told me multiple endorsements would remove the point of endorsements. When you have multiple endorseable candidates, it makes sense to communicate that, rather to imply that only one is endorseable.


Tanya Riemer has dropped out to take care of family impacted by the Hurricane-

Jeff, our local Sierra Club policy is to endorse up to the number of candidates that can be elected for that race, e.g., for the CH Town Council, we will endorse up to four. For a mayor's race,
we'll endorse either one or none.

Of course, say, in a mayor's race, one could make the
argument that if both candidates have excellent environmental
qualifications, then we should endorse both. But then our
endorsement loses value. At the end of the discussion, the poltical and executive committees who do the endorsements, have to make the same decision that every voter does, namely
to choose one candidate from those available. In some cases,
that can be a difficult choice.

Hi Joe,
What are the criteria the Sierra Club uses to choose candidates for endorsement?

Joe, I'll make the argument that the Sierra Club endorsement loses meaning if both candidates have similar environmental qualifications, and you endorse only one. By doing that, you certainly taught me, as a voter, to look beyond the Sierra Club's endorsement for more information.

Obviously, the endorsement still has a lot of power to people who don't understand that you might be splitting hairs in some cases.

Apparently the first endorsement is in-

Mark Kleinschmidt was endorsed by the Police Benevolent Association-

Anyone know who the other endorsees are?

A little birdie informs me that the other PBA endorsements went to Bill Thorpe, Tanya Riemer, and Ed Harrison.

One might wonder why Laurin Easthom, who I think many people agree is the most qualified of the challengers, was not endorsed.

Unfortunately she wasn't even given an interview. They sent candidates a letter inviting them to interview, Easthom never got one. When she found out the interviews were taking place she called PBA, trying to figure out what had happened. They never called her back. Other candidates may have had the same experience, I don't know.

One has to wonder how much a group's endorsement means when one of the leading candidates is not even allowed to participate in the process. That's not democracy.

Yes Tom.

You really have to wonder about a group endorsing someone who has DROPPED OUT.

I believe Laurin also had an editorial supporting pay increases for Town employees.

Usually, if groups can not get into a contact they at least leave a couple phone messages or figure out how to get an email address from the candidate's website.

Bizarre indeed.

I'll add to Helena's bizarre and raise Tom one. In 1995, when
I ran for re-election, I was interviewed by the PBA. They were
an Alamance County group, primarily interested in
the Sheriff's depts of Alamance and Orange Counties. The
gentlemen who interviewed me actually knew very little
about the law-enforcement situation in Chapel Hill.

I madethe point that they should endorse the incumbents in CH because we always gave the police department everything they ask for -- police and fire are by far our highest priority in here.

I was not endorsed by them, which was OK. But what I remember most was that their endorsements made no sense; I couldn't discern any philosophic basis for their endorsements, or any similarities among the candidates they selected. This was one confused group. I guess they haven't changed.

In 2003 when I called I was told all interview slots were taken. So the endorsements are like a contest...... the first four callers get endorsed?
There were many candidates, 12 for Council in Chapel Hill, but any group making endorsements should offer all candidates an opportunity for contact, an interview, questionnaire etc.
I agree with Joe.

Andrea, that seems unusual that they were unable to schedule enough time over the course of two work days to interview you. I believe I spent about twenty minutes speaking with them, and Bill, who interviewed right before me, spent even less time than that.

I received an unexpected call just now from Lisa Stuckey who'd heard that the forum tonight includes school board candidates.

My understanding as moderator (i.e. probably the last to hear anything) is that it is for CH Council and Mayor.

The fun begins at 7:30 at the Southern Human Services Ctr on Homestead Rd.

No we're including school board candidates at the request of our membership. I think I reached everyone except Jeff danner, who's phone is always busy.

Is tonight's forum on TV?

Katrina, since you are apparently reading OP but not listening to your phone messages, please call me ASAP. Thank you.

Dan--will you please call me ASAP? I can't find your phone number!

I was in Chapel Hill today for the Anne Queen memorial service
and managed to see Bill Thorpe twice. Bill was one of 100+ people at the memorial service, mostly people who overlapped with Anne's tenure at the Y from 1956 to 1976 -- it was an unusual gathering of those who had been active in Chapel Hill liberal politics during that period -- among the speakers were Howard Lee and Bill Friday. Many had come from all around the sotheast US.

Then, I went over the the Daily Tar Heel office - Editorial page editor Chris Coletta (who posts here) had invited me to submit a 750 word opinion piece (really a historical overview) of Chapel Hill student politics in the 1970s as a part of a series the DTH is doing on student involvement in local poltiics (I think my piece is running Tuesday). I also met with DTH editor Ryan Tuck and talked about the same subject. In walked Bill Thorpe.

Bill and I had a nice conversation over by Davis.

I must've seen him moments before you saw him at the DTH Gerry.

Do you think your article will stir some voting interest?

It's mainly a historical piece, they wanted me to try to put things in a historical perspective for students, you can read it at

Students for a Progressive Chapel Hill backs Kevin Foy, Town Council candidates Jason Baker, Laurin Easthom, Will Raymond and incumbent Mark Kleinschmidt, see
the group had backed Green and Strom in 2003

my historical piece appears in today's DTH edited slightly at at

I can't believe you found that on the Web site. It doesn't even work for me, and I'm in the office!

Ah, well. More importantly, thank you for writing!

Here is a PDF file so you can see the space we were working with on the page. The package as a whole actually looks really nice, thanks to the design folks who pulled it together at the last minute after a couple of things fell through. I hope it helps students put faces to the names they're reading in the news.

(Of course, now that I put the PDF online, one of you is bound to find some qualm with our writing or, worse, a stupid error. But if we're to be accountable to you all, I don't mind.)

Chirs, since I knew the piece was to run, I used the "search" function for my name, and my article came up. Sorry it is not linked from either the city or opinion options!

Hey, it's not your fault. Our Web site, like most Web sites, just likes to be ornery.

I'll bring it up to the proper folks later tonight.


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