2005 election warm up

The Daily Tarheel had articles today looking ahead to this fall's local elections in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. There wasn't any big news, but it's good to start getting people on the record. Here's what it looks like so far:

In Carrboro: In addition to the Mayor, Alderpeople Diana McDuffee, Jacquie Gist and John Herrera are up for re-election. I don't think any of them have decided, but Jacquie and Diana are leaning against running after having put in many years of service. I'm pretty sure Mayor Mike Nelson is serious this time when he says he's not going to run anymore. Alex Zaffron and Mark Chilton, the other two Alderpeople (whose seats are safe this year), are considering it. And 2003 mayoral challenger Jeff Vanke has moved from definitely running to maybe.

In Chapel Hill: Mayor Kevin Foy and Councilpeople Ed Harrison, Mark Kleinschmidt, Dorothy Verkerk, and Edith Wiggins are are up. The Mayor is undecided, and Councilperson Bill Strom will be a very strong candidate for Mayor if Kevin steps down. None of the four incumbent Councilpeople have tipped their hands yet, but my guess is (or is it my hope?) that some will stay and at least one will go. A few challengers are getting in line, including: Laurin Easthom, a neighbor of the Horace Williams tract who has been outspoken about managing UNC's growth; Robin Cutson, who already has her own website; and UNC neighbor Gene Pease, who like Laurin is involved with NRG. Progressive student leader Tom Jensen has decided not to run, but will be getting involved by supporting other candidates in the election this year. I think he made a smart choice.

The filing period doesn't even open until July, so everyone still has a lot of time to make up their minds.

So... What have you heard?



re: Carrboro -- before we start predicting who'll win, i'd be interested in knowing the issues/values on which voters will be basing their decisions.

My important issues for Carrboro are:

1. More cops with better training and newer equipment, getting the cops out of their cars and walking around, and getting Carrboro and Chapel Hill PD's to work together on the drug problem (which neither seems to want to admit exists).

2. Affordable housing

3. Improving schools...I don't even have kids and I think this is important. Lets just say if I did have kids, I'd home school. OK I know that is more of a state issue and not a local one.

Here's my outsider take on Carrboro:
Nelson wins if he runs.
Zaffron wins if he runs.
Chilton wins if he runs.
It's a matter of who wants the job.
I can't even imagine a Ryan/Voyce- backed candidate making a splash. How do you frame, 'I hate Carrboro. I want to destroy it.'?

Lashanah haba'ah b'Yerushalayim!
Hope everyone feasting tomorrow night has as much fun as I will!

Tsk, tsk, tsk, Mary, such harsh language. I've never said I hated Carrboro, and I haven't heard Brian say it either. May I also remind you that you signed the petition to be annexed into Chapel Hill as well....so what's your problem with Carrboro ? Mine is simply that it's badly run. Idealogues of any ilk seldom make good policy decisions.

Never signed anything.
I'm glad you like Carrboro. Guess I misunderstand your postings and Brian's letters.
My problem with Carrboro was waking up one morning and reading in the paper that I was going to be annexed. No psychological preparation. Had the usual reaction people have to involuntary annexation. Have moved on.

To those offended by my first post, I only meant the sign off as a traditional toast, not as a political statement. I firmly support Palestinian rights! (Whew!!!)

I hear there was also an article in the C.H. News about candidates, but I missed it. Can anyone else report?

UNC student Jason Baker says he may run for Chapel Hill Town Council
Jason turns 21 this summer.

Former Councilmember Bill Thorpe announced, at least informally, yesterday his intention to run for Council this year.

So, as far as I know, we have these new candidates:

Laurin Easthom
Robin Cutsen
Jason Baker
Bill Thorpe

with the near certainty of:

Ed Harrison
Dorothy Verkerk

both of whom will face a very difficult election season (maybe they'll realize that and cede their place at the table).

There's a good chance that Edith Wiggins will run in spite of her previous statements saying if a suitable candidate came forward she wouldn't.

And then there's the speculative. Anyone care to publish their current speculative slate?

If Thorpe is really running, he would definitely be the "strong black candidate" who Wiggins says she is looking for. She worked closely with Thorpe's colleagues in the NAACP to plan the road renaming. The success of the MLK event yesterday and the appearance of a more congenial spirit of town-gown cooperation give her the chance to retire on a particularly high note.

Absolutely correct Dan, but will "Mayor Pro Tem" Wiggins show the good sense to leave with the MLK win or will she run and face all the prolific, specific criticisms her incumbency will provide fodder for?

BTW, that's Robin Cutson, not Cutsen, sorry about that Robin.

I exchanged a few emails with Jason Baker this week, realized I had met him last fall while I was working a voter registration drive at NCSU here in Raleigh last October. Jason just finished his SOPHOMORE year at Carolina. At Carolina in 2004, he coordinated voter registration for the campus Dems and was also working for the Democratic Coordinated Campaign doing the same thing in the three trianlge counties. He seems very politically attuned and high energy. IF the 7500+ students who registered in Chapel Hill last year vote again, this could have a big impact. The last time that many students registered in one year in Chapel Hill was 1972, and I got a ride on the last bit of that tidal wave in 1973. (I finished second in the race for four Chapel Hill Town Board seats that year)

I don't know how many students we registered for Harvey Gantt in 1990, but the effect was similar to 1972 so far as its impact on the the Town Council race the next year.

little known fact and trivia department:
while there has been a lot pf publicity about Mark Chilton and I being the only two students elected to the Chapel Hill Town Council, I've seen little or no press in recent history about the fact that a fellow law student of mine was elected to the Carrboro Town Board in 1973. George "Pete" Beswick like me finished undergrad at Carolina in 1972 and went on to Carolina Law. He sat next to me in a law school class Fall 73 and was CONSTANTLY complaining about the Carrboro Town Board. To shut him up, I gave him $5 for his filing fee and sent him to Carrboro Town Hall to file. The same heavy student voting in 1972 in Carrboro carried over to 1973. Pete now practices law in Morehead City.

Along with Dorothy, Ed, and Edith, I'm up this year too.

I was wondering why he skipped you and Edith, Mark. Thanks for piping up.

So, Mark K, you neglect to tell us if you are running for reelection. Or, satisfied with your many accomplishments in office, will you retire and move on to other pursuits? As an orangepolitics authorized author, will you take the bold step of announcing here on the blog?


Can you be a little more specific about what you mean about facing "all the prolific, specific criticisms her incumbency will provide fodder for?"

Trivia Question: Who was the last Town of Chapel Hill Council candidate to receive more than the 4,883 votes that Edith Wiggins received in 2001?

Mark K., I was trying to highlight the new candidates and then, for some reason, went on to describe all the placeholder incumbents.

I assumed you'd be pushing on to finish all the good in-progress projects.

Want to make it official?

Other than Ed's lowkey response (when asked at the MLK event) that he'd run again, I haven't had an absolute confirmation on Verkerk and Wiggins - just speculation.

Fred, are you kidding? I voted for every member of the current Council at one time or another. Why? I didn't have a track record to go by - I went by their rhetoric alone.

Fred, I'm sure a good chunk of Ms. Wiggin's, Ms. Verkerk's and Mr. Harrison's support came from people like myself - judging a book, so to speak, by its cover.

I won't be making that mistake again and I imagine that a published, detailed profile/timeline of various incumbents behavior/actions will educate a significant portion of that electorate as to whats written on the "pages" of these candidates "books".

Of course, in the unlikely event that Mayor Pro Tem Wiggins lets better sense and a commitment to her previous stated position on resigning overcome her desire for another term, she'll have an opportunity to leave on a high note and avoid having to defend her incumbency (or is she planning to run exclusively on the MLK renaming?).

As far as Ms. Verkerk, she's had her run and warmed the seat long enough. A quick review of her prepardness, demeanor towards citizens and coziness with the Town management should be enough to derail her candidacy. Hopefully, she'll see this and bow out.

Finally, I like Ed, but he's had significant problems staking out a position on a number of issues. He's initiated almost no substantive actions. I appreciate his diligence in attending meetings with local, county and state boards, but, in the next 4 years, years that will be extremely demanding of leadership, vision and initiative, can we afford keeping someone because they're a nice guy?

Will, what did I miss: "a commitment to her previous stated position on resigning?" What ever all you referring to?

Wiggins '98 percent sure' she won't run again.

Mayor Pro-tem Edith Wiggins said she's “98 percent sure” she won't seek a third term, though she said she might reconsider if no strong black candidate emerges.

Wiggins, the only black council member out of nine, has tried to recruit a successor, but so far no one has committed.

“I've been really disappointed,” she said. “I don't see the diversity I think we need on the council. It would be bad for Chapel Hill as a community to be left without

So, will Ms. Wiggin's attachment to the status and special parking space Council membership confers cause her to cling to the %2 she left hanging or is she prepared to move on?

Fred, do you plan to run? Who's CAN putting up this time?

Oh, completing one's term of office and not seeking reelection is not "resigning."

I am running for nothing other than good health. CAN does not "put up" candidates; it did endorse in the last Town election.

I also believe in diversity on the Council and that diversity should include the diversity of opinions that reflect the variety we see in our population here.

Fred, I'm glad to see you endorse a range of opinion on the Council, so do I. What I don't endorse are Councilmembers that are unprepared, confused by the issues in front of them, condescending, unethically collaborating with Town vendors, unable to stake out a position and defend it within a reality-based context and warming a seat that a more qualified candidate could fill. The citizens of Chapel Hill don't have the time or money to piddle around with trifling leadership, now more than ever.

Dan stated that Bill Thorpe would be the strong black
candidate that Edith is looking for. History however
disagrees. The last time Bill Thorpe ran was in
1991 and he finished way back in approximately
9th place out of 12, amassing nowhere near enough
votes to even approach winning a seat. He was a
very weak candidate then.

Joe, are you saying if Ms. Wiggins runs then she must consider Mr. Thorpe a "very weak candidate"? He made some rather stirring remarks at the MLK renaming. Can you take us back to '91 and comment on why his candidacy was weak back then? Was it organization, message (or lack thereof), stronger candidates, etc. ?

I think Edith's definition of a "strong black candidate" might have as much to do with whether Edith agrees with them as their electability. If thet's the case, then it's not likely that Bill (or any leader of the local NAACP) would qualify.

Ruby, then why did she go out of her way to introduce race as the single determinig factor?

“I've been really disappointed,” she said. “I don't see the diversity I think we need on the council. It would be bad for Chapel Hill as a community to be left without any African Americans on the council.”

I thought it rather odd she seemed to lump, politically, people together based on their race, but assumed she meant what she said.

Will and Ruby, I can't read Edith's mind and won't
predict what she will do -- that's up to her.
All I stated was that Bill Thorpe did very poorly in his
last attempt for town council. In 1991, as today, the
field of 12 candidates went from forum to forum,
presenting themselves to the public, answering
the questions and expressing
their opinions. Bill's performance in contrast to the
top six candidates was very poor. Please note however
that there was another black candidate in the race, Roosevelt Wilkerson, a minister, very intelligent and
well-spoken. Roosevelt was an incumbent and finished
in 2nd place. The winners in order were
Herzenberg, Wilkerson, Capowski and Chilton, and
Ken Broun for mayor.

Capowski? Any relation ;-)?

I believe the answer to Fred's trivia question is Joe Capowski who had over 5000 votes in 1995. Joe's accomplishment that year is significant considering that there were effectively five incumbents (with Julie McClintock running again after a voluntary two year hiatus from the council) as well as Richard Franck who fell 30-some votes short of winning. A very strong field.

Wiggins, by contrast, was the only incumbent in 2001 and was expected to do well. No offense to the rest of that field but it was probably the weakest in recent memory. Third place went to Harrison whose prior political experience had been almost entirely in Durham. Fourth went to Kleinschmidt who I for one had not even heard of before the campaign (I'm glad I have now). As in 2003 the also-rans did very poorly with fifth and sixth place finishing far out of the running.

I would be remiss not to acknowledge that Edith ran a close 2nd place behind Joyce Brown in '97 ahead of a stronger field that included Foy, Pavao, and Franck.

Edith will be a strong candidate if she chooses to run. Joe C topped 5,000 in 1995 for sure. Before him, the top vote getter in any Town Council race had been Joe Herzenberg in 1991.

I think Bill Thorpe partly suffered from the back hand of tokenism in 1991. Many voters may have decided to vote for one and only one African American candidate and made that candidate Roosevelt Wilkerson, a popular incumbent.

Joe was in fact the correct answer; he had 5,123 votes.

Mark, could you elaborate on why Ms. Wiggins would be such a strong candidate? Obviously, you don't think her track record will haunt her effort. Thanks.

Edith would be a strong candidate because:
1) She knows how to run.
2) She has run and won multiple times, serving on two different elected boards.
3) Many CH voters share her view of Town Gown relationships (not exactly the crowd that showed up in force in 2003, but note that Jim Ward won in 2003 even so).
4) Contrary to popular belief in the media, voters are quite sophisticated in their approach to choosing a candidate and they don't usually have any single acid-test. They vote for an overall impression that is informed by many factors (of which the candidate's voting record is but one).
5) Many CH voters feel that it is important to have a diversity of view points on the CH Town Council and Edith represents a divergent view on many issues.
6) She is also the only African American on the Council and many CH voters feel that it is important to have at least one African American on the Town Council.
7) Voters are always disposed more toward the devil they do know rather than the devil they don't (not that Edith is a devil). That is, many voters want their Town Council to administer the business of the town and not have the town trouble them in their lives. Consequently, as long as things are basically going okay from their point of view, then they are inclined to re-elect incumbents.

I realize that whether "things are basically going okay" is a debatable point, but it is worth realizing that the universe of voters in much bigger than the group of us on OP.org who watch local politics through a microscope. And those who do not watch through a microscope may have a perfectly valid approach to local politics.

But, naturally, since I don't live in Chapel Hill, I have no opinion about who should win in the Town Council race. I merely have an opinion about who will win. And I think Edith Wiggins will win if she chooses to run.

Excellent anaylsis, Mark, and I tend to agree with you.

Carrboro has an election this year too. According to today's paper, Mark Chilton and Alex Zaffron may be competing candidates for mayor. Margot asked earlier what the Carrboro issues are. Although I won't get to vote (I'm an extraterrestrial!), my support will go to the candidate who proposes a well thought out plan for economic growth. We have to find a way to bring income into the town since appears that I may be the only one who would support limiting population growth/development. I'd also like to hear plans for how to the downtown traffic plan will be implemented (funded).

I believe pretty much everyone concedes Edith her seat if she wants to retain it.

Dan, everyone minus one.

Since much has been made on this thread of Edith Wiggins' 2001 vote total, it is perhaps worth recalling what one political observer said recently on another thread:

don't be so sure to conclude what 4,590 votes really tell us about what Chapel Hillians really think. We just don't know since so many don't vote. Comment at 9:43am 4/28/2005 by Fred Black

Much wasn't made about the vote total, it was an question that was clearly labeled "trivia question" and was comparative in nature. At least you show consistency when you overstate by saying "Since much has been made on this thread of Edith Wiggins' 2001 vote total." By whom?

And the quote is exactly the point. What is the connection between a vote total and what Chapel Hillians really think? As my electoral politics prof Robert Martin told us years ago, a vote total tells us the outcome but it doesn't tell us the real story. His researched black voting patterns in post-war Chicago and he was after the real story that the totals didn't provide. Much of his voting research helped Cong. "Big Bill" Dawson's machine to elect the first black mayor in Chicago in 1983

In this county, we don't even know how many people voted for the Town Council; the closest that we can get is how many voted for mayor. But surly some vote for Council and not Mayor, and we don't know how many voters cast four, three, two one or no votes for the Council.

Look at the 2003 math:

a. 7,338 of 34,192 registered Chapel Hill voters voted (21.46%)

b. 5,894 votes were cast for mayor. This equals 80% of the 7,338 voters and 17.2% of registered voters. “Last minute” write-in candidate Pat Killian received 173 votes ((2.9%) and other write-ins received 251 (4.3%). Together the total write-in votes equaled 7.2% of mayoral votes (424 of 5894).

c. For Council, 27,640 votes were cast for the 12 candidates and write-ins. The max possibility horizon is (7338) x (4) = 29,352, or 94% of those who voted. Of course, it is unknown how many voted for Council and not for Mayor.

So we do know is that almost 8 out of 10 people who are registered don't vote. We also know (or at least I've been lead to believe this from comments people make) that some people who vote go for a mix of candidates, like the person who told me that they voted for Bill, Cam, Dianne, and Terri because they wanted a variety of opinions to be represented on the Council.

So my point remains that we shouldn't be too hasty in linking the vote total to anything but that election and that field of candidates. After all, the bottom five finishers in the last Town election had 3,324 total votes, the middle four had 7,896, and the top four had 16,349; somebody though that each candidate should serve! I won't accept that there were not others who felt the same way as the voters did, but they just didn't vote.

And yes, it doesn't count unless you vote.

Thanks, Fred. Now there's a glory for you!


Who were you refering to in your 5/10, 4:01 posting...Sally, Cam or Bill?

Bobby Clapp

So Mr. Clapp, running for office?

Voters do not necessarily vote for the same number of candidates as there are slots. This makes analysis of municipal elections difficult as there is no way to know if a voter cast a vote for 1,2,3 or 4 candidates. There was a previous thread on this site 'a single shot vote for.....'

Will, I know you are used to associating the combination of smarmy, mean-spirited sarcasm and banal professions of faith with right wing political campaigns, but here on orangepolitics it's not always the case. Bobby's sudden and prolific reappearance might just be him needing to let off some steam. In my estimation, his comment on another thread precludes the likelihood that he intends a serious campaign for Chapel Hill office this year.

I don't think Mr. Clapp lives in Chapel Hill. Do you Bobby?

Yeah, I thought his reappearance was a harbinger of something....maybe a "responsible corporate citizen" is sponsoring a new candidate and, just as he did for ACS and the RLCs, Mr. Clapp is going to be the pointman.

Wow! He couldn't be working for the Actioneers could he?

BTW Mark, Mr. Clapp appears to live within the Town's electoral jurisdiction.

Now, he could have moved, but the State BOE wensite says:

County Name: ORANGE
Status: ACTIVE
City: CHAPEL HILL NC 27516
Gender: Male

I am assuming that is he. That poling site is for Coles Store which includes some of Carrboro, but none of Chapel Hill so far as I can tell.

Mark, I think you're overlooking the James Robert Clapp who votes at Cedar Falls (and who chipped in $100 for his neighbor Doug Schworer's town council run in '03).

Perhaps he'll overcome his sudden and uncharacteristic shyness and confirm his voting place himself.



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