Local Politics

Bell Beats Back Stith for Durham Mayor

Posted November 6, 2007
Updated November 7, 2007

— Mayor Bill Bell held off a brutal challenge from City Councilman Thomas Stith to win an unprecedented fourth term as Durham mayor Tuesday night.

The negative, often heated campaign sent voters to the polls in droves. More than 35,000 voters cast ballots in Durham – 24 percent of the city's registered voters – doubling the turnout of the last mayoral election.

With 98 percent of the votes counted, Bell captured 58 percent of the vote to Stith's 42 percent, according to unofficial results.

"People believe in me and want me to be mayor for another two years, at least," Bell said. "It's not just good for me, it's good for the city of Durham, given the type of campaign that was conducted. It appears to me they rejected that campaign."

Stith hammered at Durham's image as a crime-ridden city, calling Bell soft on crime and saying Durham needed to move in a new direction. He also criticized Bell's involvement in the Duke University lacrosse sexual assault investigation, saying his meetings with police early in the case could increase the city's liability in a pending federal lawsuit.

Three members of the Duke lacrosse team were charged with raping a stripper at a March 2006 team party. They were cleared of all charges in April and last month filed suit against the city, the Durham Police Department and various officials, claiming civil rights violations and wrongful arrest.

Bell fired back at Stith, saying the councilman has been using scare tactics over crime and the Duke case for political gain.

"I hope it sends a message to future candidates that choose to campaign in Durham and use that type of (negative) tactic. It's not going to work in Durham," Bell said.

Stith said he expects to continue a working relationship with Bell on the City Council in the coming weeks.

"This was not a personal issue for me. I certainly respect the mayor and hope he respects me. We'll continue to work together for the next few weeks until my term on the council is out," Stith said.

Meanwhile, City Council members Eugene Brown and Diane Catotti captured two of three at-large council  seats up for grabs. Unofficial totals had Catotti with almost 26 percent of the vote, followed by Brown at 21 percent.

The race for the third City Council seat remained close Tuesday night, but North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development Vice President Farad Ali garnering almost 17 percent of the vote to pull away from telecommunications worker David Harris, who finished with 15 percent, according to unofficial results.

Lawyer and Durham County Republican Party Chairman Steve Monks and retired Duke official Laney Funderburk trailed the six-person field of council candidates, with 11 percent and 9 percent, respectively.

Voters in the city and the county also overwhelmingly approved four bond issues on the ballot.

A $20 million issue to improve city streets and sidewalks captured 74 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, a $194 million package for countywide school renovations won by a 77-23 percent margin and bonds to renovate county museums and Durham Technical Community College won 69 and 76 percent of the vote, respectively.


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  • Nancy Nov 7, 2007

    "Sorry, newtodurham, but Durham is not a place that's failing. Far from it."

    Sure, business may be moving forward, but the crime rate is not slowing either. And crime IS a big issue for many.

    Now if Bell doesn't understand the need to pump up local efforts to control the crime on the street level, Durham will continue to have the well earned reputation for serious crime that it has had for a while. Talk it cheap, and so far, that's all the people have gotten concerning eliminating crime in the streets of Durham.

  • 68_polara Nov 7, 2007

    Chargernut, My favorite is the 69 r/t. As neat as the Charger 500 was I still like the appearance of the r/t more.

  • chargernut69 Nov 7, 2007

    ...keep your flack jacket handy!

  • 68_polara Nov 7, 2007

    I don't like or support Bill Bell. However, how can the mayor have much of an impact on crime? The real problem here in Durham is that the same violent felons are committing murders and other crimes over and over again because the Durham county judges are at best soft on crime, especially the head judge Orlando Hudson. The mayor doesn't appoint judges they are elected. Also Stith ran a really ugly campaign. His mailings were down right insulting to ones intelligence as they were made to look like a personal letter addressed to you. Their phone tactics were to call you up act like they are doing a survey then going to a childish smear rant on Bell Bill. There is just now way I could vote for some one who runs a campaign this way.

  • tiredofgovtwaste Nov 7, 2007

    Why are any of you acting surprised at the results of this electon? The majority of us living in Durham have no clue as to what it right or wrong, we are willing to be lead blindly by the crooks (elected officials) without question and support the increase in taxes, higher crime and lower literacy rates then take a chance to improve. So leave us a lone and let us continued on the road to self destruction - maybe the federal government will step in and take over the control of this city before it becomes another Washington DC!

  • wrx44 Nov 7, 2007

    I'll be the first to say I don't know much about Bell or Stith....but Durhams record of selecting leaders has been godawful the last 10 years....I have no faith that has changed.

  • KevinUNC97 Nov 7, 2007

    Bell'a acceptance speech included mentioning that he is going to dedicate more money and resources to inner-city Durham to prevent crime and gangs. Well the only problem with that, is the fact that the only thing that can raise the standards of living for the constituency, is to provide better education. It is a very simple equation. If you provide better education, people will learn to work hard and achieve and even more to learn that they sometihng live for and to lose if they make the wrong decisions. Durham has an education propaganda channel that is on constantly that shows the 'accomplishments' of Durham public schools, which really result in the lowest performing schools in any urban area in the state. Let's get money that is already being collected to be given to schools to improve, which will have a trickle-down effect for reduction of violence ang gangs in our community.

  • Durham-Raleigh Nov 7, 2007

    "The good neighborhoods in Durham will look like ghost towns if there isn't a lowering of taxes or more responsive government to the real tax base."

    My neighborhood in Durham has more and more people moving in every year. There's a home from the 1800s being fixed up and on the market for around $900,000. Was a plan to bring in luxury condos, too, and there's a beautiful new B&B going in.

    And we border downtown.

    Sorry, newtodurham, but Durham is not a place that's failing. Far from it.

    If you want to complain about tax rates, note that houses are less expensive in Durham -- lower tax base means higher rates. But the overall impact's not that different. Wait to see what happens with the re-assessment, anyhow.

  • newtodurham Nov 7, 2007

    You missed the point wveagle. Revitalizing downtown and so-called inner city neighborhoods, gang violence, high crime, etc. are not the concerns of most Durham citizens. Corruption, complacency, low standard of living for one of the highest tax rates in the state are our concerns.

    The good neighborhoods in Durham will look like ghost towns if there isn't a lowering of taxes or more responsive government to the real tax base. These "inner city" neighborhoods will be torn to pieces and the good neighborhoods will be abandoned. Is that the Durham you want to see in the future wveagle?

    Time to demand a return on investment in Durham, no more will you take our money and run.

  • wveagleson Nov 7, 2007

    If you don't like Durham, then pack up and leave. I hear so much criticism and it makes me wonder what any of the whiners are doing to help the situation. For all of you who keep harping about crime in Durham, you need to get your facts straight. In the last "OFFICIAL REPORT" on crime, Durham has a "slightly higher" rate than Raleigh, a "lower" rate than Greensboro and Winston Salem and a "much lower" rate than Charlotte. The fact is that crime is everywhere and hopefully with the "new" Durham police chief and "new" special gang assistant district attorney things will improve in Durham. It seems that the emptiest buckets always make the most noise. Again, if you don't like Durham, then leave. And as far as those who don't live here, clean up around your own front doors before you worry about ours.