Bang the drum slowly

by Brian Clarey

It’s August, typically the month during municipal election years when the candidates lay low. Behind the scenes they’ll set strategy, meet with campaign donors, book their schedules, fine-tune their platforms and generally eschew the campaign trail until the dog days are over — at least, that is usually what happens in August during these off-year elections. But this year, all bets are off. In Guilford and Forsyth counties, 58 candidates vie for just 17 seats — a huge field of hopefuls that makes this undercard election look more like a main event. We’ve already stressed in this space that municipal elections are far more relevant to the everyday lives of citizens than presidential contests — though they are not quite as sexy. And we’ve examined how the Obama effect, which created more than half a million new voters in the state, might affect voter turnout in 2009. But what we didn’t anticipate this election season was the rash of political newcomers who disregard the old ways as they cut new paths on the road to the primaries. In Winston-Salem, one of the few municipalities in the nation to have partisan elections, seven incumbent council members must defend their seats against 17 challengers. The sole sitting Republican, Robert C. Clark of the West Ward, is the only council member running unopposed, but three Republicans are after incumbent Democrat Wanda Merschel’s seat in the Northwest. The GOP is flooding the zone in the Southwest Ward as well, with two challengers to incumbent Democrat Dan Besse. But things are still relatively quiet in the Camel City, while in Greensboro a couple upstarts are shaking things up in the month that is usually reserved for down time. At-large candidate Jorge Cornell, he of the Latin Kings, made a big splash when he famously plugged his campaign while being led to a police cruiser in handcuffs during a downtown Greensboro block party. He has also made inroads among disenfranchised voters with a fundraising effort to help the mother of 16-year-old Breyon Deese, who was murdered in the Hickory Trails public housing project earlier this month. He has also taken a stand against efforts to evict the mother from the project, claiming that the shooting was mischaracterized by the Greensboro Housing Authority as gang related. Another at-large candidate, Ryan Shell, has also been making public moves this month, using Twitter, Facebook, a campaign blog and a conspicuous presence in the comment sections of other community blogs. Shell has also moved to help the mother of the murdered teenager. And though he lacks Cornell’s street cred, he has shown himself a savvy networker and employer of new media. But whether either one of these candidates can crack the established political order in Greensboro is another matter entirely. YES! Weekly chooses to exercise its right to express editorial opinion in our publication. In fact we cherish it, considering opinion to be a vital component of any publication. The viewpoints expressed represent a consensus of the YES! Weekly editorial staff, achieved through much deliberation and consideration.