Conservatives overthrow old order in Greensboro

by Jordan Green and Brian Clarey

Bill Knight, a retired certified public accountant, defeated one-term incumbent Yvonne Johnson in Greensboro’s mayoral race, a stunning upset, on Tuesday.

Knight, who highlighted turmoil in the police department along with his fiscalconservative politics and support for business, won by less than 3 percent.

Johnson, who made history two years ago as the city’s first black mayor, failed to turn out her base in key majority African-American precincts in east Greensboro.

“It’s a good night to be a conservative in Greensboro,” Guilford County Republican Party Executive Director Tony Wilkins said. “The city of Greensboro is a different city.”

When the next council is sworn in this December, Republicans will hold two-thirds of the seats on the nonpartisan board, overturning a former majority by Democrats. The Democratic Party tried to forestall that outcome by sending out mailers and deploying volunteers to polling places.

Conservative candidates, led by Knight, eked out key victories in the Greensboro City Council race. Nancy Vaughan, who served on council from 1997 to 2001, led balloting in the atlarge race, followed Robbie Perkins, a political veteran who has served on council for 14 years. But the thirdplace position, which was considered up for grabs by any of the four other candidates, went to Danny Thompson, a Cardinal resident who owns a home healthcare company. Thompson knocked off incumbent Councilwoman Sandra Anderson Groat, who angered black voters with her motion to fire former City Manager Mitchell Johnson.

In another key victory, Mary Rakestraw, who currently serves at large, defeated Joel Landau in the contest to replace retiring Councilman Mike Barber in District 4. The race matched up a staunch conservative who helped lead the effort to remove former City Manager Mitchell Johnson against a progressive Democrat who champions environmental sustainability.

Zack Matheny, a one-term councilman, handily defeated challenger George Hartzman in District 3 on the strength an extensive network of contacts gathered through volunteer experience, responsiveness to neighborhoods and a fiscal-conservative approach reflecting the wishes of his affluent district.

In District 5, incumbent Trudy Wade had the biggest win, defeating opponent Art Boyett by a margin of 42.5 percent. A former Guilford County commissioner, Wade developed deep support in her district during her first term on city council by ensuring that constituents receive their fair share of policing and maintenance resources.

District 1 voters handed incumbent Dianne Bellamy-Small a narrow win over challenger Luther T. Falls, who benefited from the backing of the Simkins PAC, whose membership includes key black elected officials.

In District 2, where Councilwoman Goldie Wells is retiring at the end of the year, handpicked successor Jim Kee easily prevailed over opponent Nettie Coad. –Jordan Green and Brian Clarey