Durham Mayor-Elect Elaine O’Neal

Mon., Oct. 11: Javiera Caballero throws in the towel


1. Durham Mayor-Elect Elaine O’Neal

In a tweet on Monday morning, Durham City Council member Javiera Caballero announced that she was suspending her campaign for Durham mayor. While she’ll appear on the November ballot, the race is over.

  • Former Superior Court Judge Elaine O’Neal will be the city’s next—and its first Black woman—mayor.

  • In a way, Caballero acknowledged reality. She lost the primary by 40 points. The October contest might have been a low-turnout affair, but not even her supporters expected her to make up that gap.

The big question(s): As of Friday, when I spoke with her, city council challenger Marion Johnson, who lost her race to Ward 1 incumbent DeDreana Johnson by a similar margin, was pressing on.

  • Will not having a mayoral race to drive turnout change her thinking?

  • How will Caballero’s decision affect the Ward 3 election, where AJ Williams—who is more aligned with the Caballero/People’s Alliance camp—is facing Leonardo Williams, who has been endorsed by the same PACs (The Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, Friends of Durham) that endorsed O’Neal?


My work on city council and my campaign for mayor are driven by a desire to build a Durham for everyone; to transform the way our city approaches public safety, to more boldly address climate change, to create affordable housing throughout the city, and to provide economic opportunities for all of Durham’s residents.

These goals are hard to achieve, but I entered the race for Mayor because I believe these are battles worth fighting. I will never stop fighting for my community. I am proud of the work I have done on the City Council, and I am proud of having become the first Latina city councilor elected official in North Carolina. I have helped govern and lead our city through the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the greatest challenges of our time, built an infrastructure for engagement of immigrant and refugee communities, and been part of transformative changes in the way we approach housing, sustainability, and public safety.

While I knew from the start that campaigning to be the first Latina mayor in the American Southeast (outside of Florida) would be the biggest uphill battle of my career, I also knew that I owed it to my community to stand up, to take one more step in making sure that our immigrant community in Durham feels seen, is heard, and is represented in our city government.

Quick note: I’m writing a magazine story that is (kinda sorta) about this election, which I’m trying to report (mostly) this week. If I skip a few newsletters, that’s why; my apologies in advance.