Durham’s Election and the City’s Political Power Structure

Wed., Sept. 22: Strange bedfellows in the Bull City + NC State prof cries woke persecution + ABC commish cries stress + SB 8’s first lawsuits + Trump’s 1/6 plan + Biden’s Border Patrol


1. On Durham’s Election

I’m planning to vote today, which focused my attention on Durham’s municipal elections. I’m not going to get into endorsements or who I’m voting for. I will, however, link you to the leading candidates’ answers to questionnaires from the People’s Alliance.

A few notes/disclaimers:

  • Because only two people are running in Ward 3, they won’t be on the October primary ballot. The Williams/Williams contest will wait until November.

  • Obviously, “leading candidates” is a judgment call.

  • Caballero got into the race at the last minute—lots of people expected Jillian Johnson to, but she declined, which left a lane open for someone from the PA camp—as her campaign finance report reflects. Her latest report, filed on Aug. 31, showed no donations and $1,139 in a checking account.

  • In a report filed on Monday, O’Neal reported raising $20,615 and just under $12,000 on hand.

  • Freeman had raised about $21,000 by the end of August, most of it over the summer; she had about $16,000 in cash on hand.

  • Johnson’s last report looks incomplete to me, but she’s raised at least $22,448, and (I believe) she’d done that by July 1.

Over the last decade, candidates endorsed by the People’s Alliance have been a reasonably safe bet to win. Only one council member, Middleton, wasn’t endorsed by the PA in his last election.

  • This was especially true when the INDY and the PA agreed, at least during my tenure as EIC. (If memory serves, the INDY endorsed every Durham current city council member and county commissioner.)

This year:

  • The PA supported Caballero, Johnson, Middleton, and AJ Williams, as did the Durham Association of Educators.

  • The newish leftist organization Durham For All endorsed Caballero, Johnson, and AJ Williams, but skipped Ward 2.)

  • The INDY didn’t back the PA’s slate. It supported (two-thirds of) the Durham Committee’s slate, which is also the conservative Friends of Durham’s slate: O’Neal, Freeman, Middleton.

  • (The INDY didn’t endorse in Ward 3, which won’t be on the ballot until November. It probably won’t, as AJ Williams is staff writer Thomasi McDonald’s son. The Committee and the Friends have endorsed Leo Williams.)

The Friends of Durham is sending out this mailer, assuring residents that its candidates won’t defund the police department. It’s presumably referring to the city’s decision to transfer up to 15 vacant police positions to a new Community Safety Department.

  • Middleton was one of the department’s original backers; however, Middleton has made clear that he is, at best, undecided about transferring police positions to the new department.

  • He’s also a major proponent of ShotSpotter, a gunshot-detection technology company that’s been accused of manipulating data to help police prosecute suspects.

  • In her PA questionnaire, O’Neal dodged questions about police funding and her support for the Community Safety Department.

That’s one of the key questions on the ballot. Caballero, Johnson, and AJ Williams are unequivocal in their support for building the Community Safety Department, as are council members Jillian Johnson and Charlie Reece.

  • If two of the PA’s three are elected, the department will continue to grow at the expense of the DPD’s vacancies. If not, its fate is more of an open question.

  • In Ward 3, Leo Williams has pledged support for the department, too, but from his questionnaire, I’m not sure whether he’ll support transferring positions from the police to do so.

Of course, that department—and public safety generally—isn’t the city’s only important issue. There are also, among others, affordable housing, economic inequity, the racial wealth gap, public transportation, and (if anyone paid attention to me) getting rid of the damn downtown loop.

  • Everyone is running as a progressive; you can’t be anything else in Durham politics. Most of the time, the candidates aren’t that far apart on the big things; the differences lie more in points of emphasis.

  • This election will test the PA/D4A’s leftist influence. Judge O’Neal is the strongest mayoral candidate not backed by the PA in the post–Bill Bell era, and the Durham Committee has been seeking to regain the clout it lost to those it often considers out-of-touch elitists. (The Friends of Durham hasn’t been relevant in forever but likes to pretend otherwise.)

  • Marion Johnson is as strong a challenger as they come, but Freeman’s incumbency is hard to overcome.

No matter what, the city will get a first: Its first Latina mayor (Caballero) or its first Black woman mayor (O’Neal).

2. NC State Prof Says the Woke Mob Is After Him

Last week, an education professor at NC State sued the university’s board of trustees, chancellor, dean of the college of education, the program coordinator for the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Human Development (ELPHD), and the current and former heads of ELPHD, claiming that:

in retaliation for Professor Stephen Porter’s protected expressions of opinion on important societal issues, Defendants have intentionally and systematically excluded him from departmental programs and activities that are necessary for him to fulfill his job requirements, effectively hollowing his job out from the inside. They have done this in a deliberate effort to set the stage for his eventual termination.

Porter’s complaint does not, in my view, make him out to be a particularly sympathetic character—legally irrelevant, but still.

  • He objected to a question about diversity on student course evaluations—because of concerns about the question design, he says—leading some colleagues to call him a “bully.”

  • He sent around a snarky email after Inside Higher Ed reported that the university had considered hiring an ousted Ohio State professor who focused on racial issues.

  • He published a blog post called “[The Association for the Study of Higher Education] Has Become a Woke Joke.”

  • This is a paragraph from the complaint: “This is characteristic of Plaintiff’s self-proclaimed ‘woke’ critics. Any dissent from their orthodoxy is equated automatically with racism, misogyny, or worse.”

He’s one of those guys. Anyway, the higher-ups in the education department allegedly marginalized him, limiting his involvement with grad students, and requiring him to teach a fifth course. (That requirement apparently wasn’t enforced.)

3. ABC Chairman Quits, Cites Stress

Zander Guy, the chairman of the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Commission, resigned on Friday, WBTV’s Nick Oschner reported.

Guy’s resignation comes as the state ABC commission and county ABC boards continue to grapple with supply issues that have left shelves bare at liquor stores across North Carolina.

In addition to supply chain problems sparked by the pandemic, the state implemented a new contract with its vendor, LB&B Associates, in July. As part of that contract, the company had to implement a new electronic inventory and ordering platform. …

WBTV has been investigating issues related to the new contract and distribution system for weeks.

Guy told the AP “that recent events led he and his wife to reassess his service, including the liquor supply troubles and the deaths of people around him due to COVID-19.”

4. “Disbarred and Disgraced” Ex-Lawyer Sues Abortion Doc Under SB 8

Over the weekend, a San Antonio physician confessed—via Washington Post op-ed—to performing an abortion in defiance of Texas’s anti-abortion law. On Monday, he became the first doc slapped with a lawsuit filed under SB 8, which seeks to circumvent Roe by making private citizens abortion bounty hunters.

  • Bounty hunter: Arkansas resident Oscar Stiller, a “disbarred and disgraced” former lawyer “currently on home confinement, in the custody of the United States Department of Justice-Federal Bureau of Prisons (DOJ-FBOP) serving the 12 year of a 15 year federal sentence on utterly fraudulent federal charges of ‘tax evasion’ and ‘conspiracy,’” the complaint begins.

  • The complaint includes this paragraph, I am not making this up: “On information and belief, Defendant is kind and patient and helpful toward bastards, but ideologically opposed to forcing any woman to produce another bastard against her own free will.”

  • Stiller wants $100,000.

Stiller, however, was beaten to the punch by about two hours. Felipe N. Gomez, a “pro-choice plaintiff,” filed a friendly-fire lawsuit that says simply: “Plaintiff alleges that Defendant did not violate Roe v Wade, and that the Act is illegal as written and as applied here until Roe v Wade is reversed or modified.”

  • Gomez “seeks the Court Declare the Act to be illegal as written and/or as applied to the instant facts.”

These weren’t the lawsuits the pro-life crowd had in mind, the Washington Post reports. They were hoping the threat of the litigation alone would be enough to shut down abortions.

Texas Right to Life, an antiabortion group, quickly disavowed the lawsuits as “self-serving legal stunts.”

“We believe Braid published his op-ed intending to attract imprudent lawsuits, but none came from the Pro-Life movement,” John Seago, the organization’s legislative director, said in a statement. “Texas Right to Life is resolute in ensuring the Texas Heartbeat Act is fully enforced.” …

After publication of Braid’s column, conservative legal commentator Ed Whelan discouraged supporters of the law from suing the doctor and giving him the “test case that he is seeking.”

Whelan wrote Monday that private citizens should not bring a civil enforcement action until the Supreme Court has ruled in the Mississippi case, which asks the justices to overrule Roe.

Melissa Murray, a professor at New York University School of Law, said lawsuits like the one Stilley filed on Monday were “never the principal goal” of the Texas law. The main point, she said, was to avoid a preemptive legal challenge and to “absolutely bring reproductive care in Texas to a standstill. That was always the endgame.”

Texas judges are likely to rule that the law is unconstitutional, though the law is constructed in such a way so as to try to prevent any judge from issuing a statewide injunction.

  • The Supreme Court will hear the Mississippi case on Dec. 1. Mississippi’s law bans abortions after 15 weeks—a clear violation of Roe, but a far cry from Texas’s six-week ban.

5. Trump’s 6-Point Plan to Have Pence Declare Him President

If you wondered how close we came to a bloodless coup on Jan. 6, this document, prepared by Trump lawyer John Eastman for Vice President Mike Pence, should answer that question: very, very close.

In short, Eastman proposed that Pence simply declare Trump the winner and walk away.

  • “Howls, of course, from the Democrats.”

  • Pence considered it (!), but ultimately decided not to become the most despised vice president since Aaron Burr.

  • The memo was first reported in Peril, the new book from Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

Per CNN:

The effort to sway Pence was just one of several behind-the-scenes attempts that Trump's team undertook ahead of January 6 in a desperate bid to overturn the 2020 election loss, after dozens of lawsuits were thrown out of the courts. Peril, which will be released Tuesday, details how Eastman's memo was sent to GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and how Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani tried to convince fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina of election fraud. But both Lee and Graham scoffed at the arguments and found they had no merit.

"You might as well make your case to Queen Elizabeth II. Congress can't do this. You're wasting your time," Lee said to Trump's lawyers trying to overturn the results in Georgia, according to the book.

RELATED: Donald Trump’s lawyers knew by mid-November that his vote-rigging claims were bunk, but his lawyers kept spouting them anyway, The New York Times reports.

Two weeks after the 2020 election, a team of lawyers closely allied with Donald J. Trump held a widely watched news conference at the Republican Party’s headquarters in Washington. At the event, they laid out a bizarre conspiracy theory claiming that a voting machine company had worked with an election software firm, the financier George Soros and Venezuela to steal the presidential contest from Mr. Trump.

But there was a problem for the Trump team, according to court documents released on Monday evening.

By the time the news conference occurred on Nov. 19, Mr. Trump’s campaign had already prepared an internal memo on many of the outlandish claims about the company, Dominion Voting Systems, and the separate software company, Smartmatic. The memo had determined that those allegations were untrue.

6. Image of the Day: Biden’s Border Patrol Problem

Apparently, that’s not a whip. But the visuals of Border Patrol agents on horseback rounding up Haitian migrants are bad, regardless.


News cameras and photographers recorded scenes Sunday along the Rio Grande where horse-mounted Border Patrol agents attempted to grab migrants and used their animals to push them back toward Mexico. One agent is heard on video shouting an obscenity as a child jumps out of the horse’s path. …

In one video by Al Jazeera English that circulated widely on social media, an agent yells “This is why your country’s s---, because you use your women for this!” at a group emerging from the river. His horse charges, attempting to cut off a family’s path to the camp, as a young girl in a green dress jumps out of the way.