D4A Statement on Election Results
The 2023 municipal elections were situated within three major developments in Durham: a rapidly expanding and changing city, communities of color being disproportionately unable to benefit from the city’s growth, and a City Council that was not consistently collaborative and unified in addressing the city’s most pressing issues.
We are thrilled by the victories of Durham for All’s (D4A) endorsed candidates Javiera Caballero (City Council At Large), Carl Rist (City Council At Large, and Leonardo “Leo” Williams (Mayor). Even though Khalilah Karim, one of our endorsed candidates, did not win, we are proud of the values she represents and the immense effort we put into trying to get her elected. Additionally, we’d like to congratulate Nate Baker on his win and look forward to opportunities for working together.
Forward Together had one main goal: get our four endorsed candidates elected because we believe they represent the kind of shared vision, experienced, and collaborative leadership that Durham needs for its next chapter. We largely succeeded in achieving our goal by getting 3 of our 4 endorsed candidates elected! We are excited and confident about the ways Javiera, Carl, and Leo will work with their colleagues to provide more affordable housing for all residents, create more wealth building opportunities for our Black and brown working class communities, and increase the number of preventative and care based alternatives to policing.
The areas of housing, public safety, economic security, and the environment all need out-of-the-box and bold solutions to even begin adequately addressing the problems our communities face. The current and next several City Councils have a huge role to play in strengthening all the things that make our city great and leading Durham to a more equitable and sustainable future.
Our team worked tirelessly to play our part in achieving these promising results. We are proud and filled with gratitude by the work of our over 15 paid canvassers and over 30 volunteers that allowed us to exceed most of the benchmarks we’d set for the campaign. We extend a lot of heartfelt gratitude to Carolina Federation, our statewide strategic partner, whose work helped make our canvassing program possible. Furthermore, we’d like to give a special thank you to People’s Alliance and Bike Durham for hosting with D4A a Candidate Forum during the primary that had over 120 people in attendance!
The results of this election is a promising next step in determining a future for all Durhamites to flourish. This is a time for rejoicing! Also, it is a time for keeping our eyes glued on our long-term goal – a Durham where our local government works with and for us to ensure everyone can thrive. There is much D4A has to build on from our Forward Together campaign and there is still plenty of work in the streets, at the ballot box, and in the halls of power that lies ahead of us. We believe in our organization’s mission, vision, and, most importantly, our membership and the people of this city to do the work required to build a just and enduring future for Durham.
We are fighting for an equitable and just Durham: Homes, Sanctuary, and Economy for all.
However, in a rapidly growing city where some neighborhoods get built up while others are left behind, that vision seems harder to reach– especially with political differences that are becoming entrenched across the city and within the current council. Ultimately, these differences are about how our changing city should be led and who is capable of leading us to respond to the pressing crises and questions Durham is facing:
- Housing and development: As Durham’s population grows, how do we build more housing that’s affordable, mitigates displacement of our working class Black communities, and doesn’t further damage our environment?
- Gun violence: How much do we invest in preventative and care-based services? And how much in policing and surveillance?
- Cost of living and wealth generation: How do we ensure all Durhamites have the quality of life they deserve and are able to generate wealth, especially since NC state laws don’t allow us to raise wages or to require the rich to pay their fair share in taxes?
Through the Forward Together campaign, we will:
- Mobilize Durham to elect city officials who will come together to provide more affordable housing, more safe places for our kids to play, and more good paying jobs with benefits in communities that have been ignored for far too long, and so much more.
- Grow our multiracial cross-class movement by fortifying our relationships with working people across race and our allied organizations in the 2023 elections and beyond.
- Strengthen the power of people and the government to create a Durham where all can prosper.
That’s why we’re focusing on 10 of the largest and fastest growing precincts in Durham, to mobilize and activate 20,000 municipal voters both in Black working class communities and in multiracial, mixed income neighborhoods.
Will you join us in fighting for a Durham where all of us can flourish, in the 2023 municipal elections and beyond?
2023 Municipal Elections
Durham’s City Council is tasked with making decisions that will affect the trajectory of the city for decades to come.
In the past few years, Durham has become a city marked by stark and hardening political differences amongst competing coalitions that are trying to achieve a Durham for everyone. These coalitions are responding to the widening wealth and racial gap, a city that is growing and changing, and the instability of a market economy that has seen people’s cost of living go up while wages and wealth opportunities have not gone up with it. State laws tie the city’s hands making the rich pay their fair share or making businesses, developers, and builders provide living wages, more affordable housing units, and green spaces.
Every disagreement or heated debate on council is a manifestation of what’s stated above. Whether the debates be about whether to approve housing developments in Durham areas that were previously minimally populated; whether to implement surveillance tools like ShotSpotter; whether funding for H.E.A.R.T. should come from vacant police positions or not; and the list goes on.
Amidst the political fragmentation and personal tensions, the current council has largely lacked a sense of unity around a vision forward that will benefit all Durhamites, especially the most marginalized. We believe that the 2023 municipal elections can change that and put the city council back on track for leading Durham towards a future where all of us can thrive.
Durham For All Endorsements
For the 2023 municipal elections Durham For All endorses Leonardo Williams for Mayor; and Carl Rist, Khalilah Karim, and Javiera Caballero for City Council At Large. They are the kind of leaders we need for this pivotal moment in Durham’s trajectory. The election of these candidates will be a crucial step towards having city leadership that is galvanized around a shared vision, able to offer and enact viable solutions to Durham’s most pressing issues, and will be active partners in sharing the power of city government with residents and organizations that share a similar vision.
Leonardo Williams for Mayor
Leonardo Williams is a small business owner and sitting Durham City Council Member who was elected in 2021. He is capable of holding diverse sets of relationships and maintaining high quality rapport with his colleagues. Leonardo believes businesses (big and small) have a responsibility to the communities they are in as well as their employees. Through his work on the Joint City-County Planning Committee and his City Council voting history, he has proven to be a reliable supporter of public transportation policies that make Durham less car centric (e.g., working to bring Bus Rapid Transit system to Durham). Additionally, he has been a reliable vote on approving housing developments that will benefit from the city’s expanding public transportation. He has also demonstrated great leadership skills by proposing innovative ideas to increase the city’s revenue (income) and by being solution-oriented when the city has faced less than ideal circumstances and decisions.
Khalilah Karim for City Council At Large
Khallilah Karim is long-time labor and environmental justice organizer with a well documented commitment to multiracial cross-class organizing. She believes communities need care-based interventions like H.E.A.R.T. rather than surveillance tools like ShotSpotter; and she believes in the importance of organization to build power for the most marginalized. As an experienced organizer, she has the necessary skills to stay engaged and work to find a common solution despite differences. She has shown her eagerness to learn from ideas or projects in other North Carolina cities that Durham would benefit from. Given the city’s move towards green infrastructure and addressing climate change, we believe she will bring to the City Council a much-needed depth of knowledge and experience in climate and environmental justice work.
Javiera Caballero for City Council At Large
Since entering office in 2017, Javiera Caballero has been an avid supporter and creator of common sense policies and programs. She voted to let Durhamites decide on the referendum for a $95 million housing bond (which voters approved by a 76% to 34% margin). Additionally, she has consistently voted for developments that include affordable housing. Her support for H.E.A.R.T. has been unwavering and she advocates for the full expansion of HEART in the next three years. She is also in support of initiatives like the Civilian Traffic Unit pilot program that further reduces people’s interactions with the police. Finally, she has often been the only voice on council that has continued to visibilize and offer solutions for Durham’s growing Latine and immigrant communities. Throughout her time in office she has been a treasure trove of knowledge about how city government works, what it is capable of, and policy or program ideas. Her experience and the continuity she’d provide on council is invaluable.
Carl Rist for City Council At Large
Carl Rist has been doing political work with organizations like People’s Alliance and the Durham Living Wage Project for over 30 years. That experience translates to his forward thinking about Community Benefits Agreements between developers and impacted residents (makes the promises of developers legally binding); ways to get federal dollars for expanding and strengthening Durham’s infrastructure to keep up with its growth; and more. Furthermore, his organizing work demonstrates a strong policy background (especially in economic and racial justice) and an ability to successfully work with organizations and people where political differences exist. For example, he has worked with the Durham Committee on Affairs of Black People to get a tax assistance program passed for low-income homeowners. The program has helped some longtime Durham residents stay in their homes despite gentrification. His policy experience, knowledge of Durham, and commitment to progressive ideals will be of great value to the City Council.
Read about our endorsement process here.
Now more than ever, we need strong, focused, and determined leadership from the Mayor and City Council. And they must be committed to building power with social justice organizations as a part of the work to get Durham closer to our vision. Our endorsed candidates have demonstrated all of these qualities in their work so far. They represent the emergence of a decisive leadership to take Durham into its new era.
Forward Together Campaign
Along with our endorsements for the 2023 municipal elections, Durham for All is launching our “Forward Together” campaign. Forward Together promotes a vision for Durham where:
- Businesses practice social responsibility to the communities of Durham and to their employees, while workers’ rights are strengthened as labor organizations flourish
- People, especially Black and Brown working communities, have access to care-based interventions for things like homelessness, mental health crises, food insecurity, or heated disagreements amongst community residents
- Police focus on solving violent crimes and reduce their use of surveillance technologies in communities that are already overpoliced.
- We balance the growth in housing (which includes affordable units and workforce housing) with infrastructure that makes roadways and walkways safer for all users and is designed for the mass use of public transportation and pedestrian pathways
- We preserve our existing green spaces (parks, community gardens, etc.) and expand the existence and use of more green spaces
We will focus on 10 of the largest and fastest growing precincts of Durham, knocking over 20,000 doors twice, and contacting over 40,000 additional voters through social media ads, printed flyers, and other means. We will collaborate with the People’s Alliance in hosting 175-200 community members at a Candidate Forum in September.
Our Endorsement Team of two member leaders and three staff members developed a questionnaire based on our vision for Durham, our previous campaigns, and Durham’s current issues. After reviewing candidate’s responses, the team sent invitations to candidates based on their level of alignment with our shared values and shared strategy. The team then conducted interviews and made recommendations to our voting bodies at our 2023 Endorsement Meeting on August 10th.
Voting bodies for the endorsement process include: 1) general members, 2) member leaders, and 3) staff and board. Each voting body debated candidates and made a final vote. Votes were tallied from all three bodies to determine Durham For All’s endorsement in each race.
Who attended the endorsement meeting
Anyone who had become a member of Durham For All by August 6th was eligible and invited to attend.
Who voted at the endorsement meeting
Members who were current on their membership-dues on August 6th were eligible to vote.
Weighted votes; how and why
We are implementing a weighted voting model that gives each voting body ⅓ of the total vote for each race. Each of these bodies determines their candidate in each race through a majority vote, and each body’s candidate will signify 1 vote for that candidate. For each race, Durham For All will endorse the candidate who receives 2 out of 3 votes from the voting bodies. If a 3-way tie occurs, rank-choice voting will attempt to break the tie or no endorsement will be made.
As our membership-based organization grows, we want all members to be able to make decisions in the organization so that they can experience greater ownership in the work, beyond paying member dues and volunteering. The weighted voting model makes this possible while also giving those who have higher levels of responsibility and commitment to the organization—such as member leaders, staff, and board—greater voting power in the endorsement process.
Durham For All requested questionnaires from all candidates in the Mayoral and City Council At Large races. Click on the candidates’ names to see where they stand on affordable housing, living wages, community safety, and more.
Candidates Nicholas Pettiford and Charlita Burress did not submit questionnaire responses.
City Council – At Large
Candidates Waldo Fenner, Bonita Green, and Shelia Huggins did not submit questionnaire responses.
The Politics Watch: Municipal Edition is a monthly email series, bringing you information about Durham’s most pressing issues and the candidates’ stances on those issues. Amidst the differences about the present and future of Durham this election season, Politics Watch includes helpful information, clarity on the differences between candidates’ stances and plans, and Durham For All’s take on each issue.
Here are the issues we have sent out so far during the Forward Together campaign:
To receive next issues of Politics Watch directly in your inbox,
The purpose of the forum was to create a space where we can strengthen our collective analysis and understanding of the local political landscape, of what is playing out on the City Council, and of the pressing issues we’re dealing with: housing and gentrification, public safety and community violence, and economic inequality. Additionally, the forum served as a place where attendees got to talk to candidates, ask them questions, and learn about their plans for governing Durham.
We summarized parts of the forum in an email for those who missed it! Click here to read the Candidate Forum recap.