A race for mayor
The Greensboro City Council election is the only game in town for political junkies these days, and it’s gonna be a burner, with solid match-ups in most districts and a horse race in the at-large division.
But the main event is the mayor’s race, which this year is loaded with contenders.
At the top of the card is incumbent Mayor Bill Knight, who came into office in 2009 by beating Yvonne Johnson, the city’s first black mayor who herself is running for an at-large seat this year, in an upset that galvanized the Gang of Four on the current council that includes District 4’s Mary Rakestraw, at-large Councilman Danny Thompson and Trudy Wade from District 5.
Together they’ve been able to steer the council in a conservative direction, and retaining Knight’s seat is key to maintaining their power.
Advantage generally goes to an incumbent, but this year Knight faces two seasoned public servants with decades of experience and attendant name recognition.
Robbie Perkins, currently an at-large representative who has gone against the Gang of Four in every controversial subject the council has tackled this term, certainly looks the part of mayor, with a sort of Romney-ian gravitas. Like a lot of men who have held the post of mayor, Perkins has solid ties to the real estate industry. And because in the past he has been able to secure the endorsement of the Simkins PAC, he includes as part of his coalition a goodly chunk of African- American voters, though he in fact is a registered Republican. More on that in a minute.
Also among the favorites is former Councilman Tom Phillips, whose return to municipal politics is in itself a good storyline. At one time Phillips was regarded as the lone conservative voice on council, but things have moved to the right since his last tenure. He has recently taken positions at odds with the current conservative faction, including supporting keeping the White Street Landfill closed. And while in office he supported the policy of offering benefits to same-sex partners of city employees, a stance that may hurt him among conservative voters as the Defense of Marriage Act makes news in Raleigh.
One might think that first-time candidate Chris Phillips, who is black, would do well in the city’s African-American precincts, and that’s surely possible. But Lawyer is a Republican with strong ties to the tea party group the Conservatives for Guilford County, which means he’ll be pulling votes from the same well as the other three Republican candidates.
Of course, the city election is a non-partisan affair — good news for the Republicans because were it a partisan election like they do in Winston-Salem then the sole Democrat running, Bradford Cone, would walk through the primary into the general election.
But as it stands, Cone may garner a sizable portion of the progressive vote. Though he’s a political newcomer with a dearth of experience, he’s the only true lefty in the field. Plus, in Greensboro, it doesn’t hurt to have the last name Cone.
So Cone, whether or not he wins the race, will surely have a profound effect upon it.
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