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Off to the races

by Amy Kingsley

Filing for city council candidates opened on July 6 and will close July 20. The candidates below have either already thrown their hats into the ring or have publicly flirted with running. In Greensboro, voters will cast ballots in the primary on Oct. 9 and the run-off on Nov. 6. Campaigns for city office are nonpartisan; the mayor’s seat, three at-large city council seats and five district seats are at stake. Remember Greensboro, you’ll be stuck with the winners for two years, so choose carefully.

Mayor Yvonne Johnson – The long time at-large councilmember would make history if elected, becoming Greensboro’s first African American woman mayor. Johnson has more political experience – 14 years – than the other mayoral candidates. Her tenure on council is both a blessing and a curse; journalists and bloggers will find plenty of fodder in her lengthy voting record between now and Election Day.

Milton Kern and Joey Medaloni – These two might or might not be running against each other and Johnson; both have been rather cagey about their political plans. I pitted them against each other in this lineup because the duo – both of whom are downtown businessmen – will likely split the central business district lobby, leaving the winner to face Johnson in the run-off. To win the election, either Kern or Medaloni would have to convince voters that success in the boardroom translates to victory on the council dais, which is a message that Greensboro voters have been receptive to in the past.

At Large Sandra Anderson Groat – Anderson Groat, a homebuilder who specializes in developments for low-income residents, earned the most votes in the at-large race in 2005, making her mayor pro tem for the last year and a half. Expect an advertising assault as Election Day nears featuring billboards, fliers and yard signs.

Kevin Green – Served on the Sports Commission and is tight with Coliseum Director Matt Brown. I hadn’t heard of this guy until the News & Record uncovered an e-mail Brown had received about Green’s campaign. Remember, the rule is that city employees, like Brown, are not allowed to use their office to promote a campaign, so the whole thing smells kind of fishy.

Joel Landau – The Deep Roots store manager has experience as a small businessman and environmental activist. Landau might be the first candidate to make environmental policy a major campaign issue. It’s good to see him back in the running.

Janet Wallace – Wallace ran against Mike Barber for the District 4 seat in 2005 and lost. This year, she’s chosen to take on all comers in the at large race. The A&T political science grad is conservative, and she doesn’t have a lot of political experience yet. But she’s tenacious, and if she loses again this year, I bet we’ll see her again in the near future.

Joe Venable and Bill Knight – Dunno about either of these guys. We’ll find out more as debate and questionnaire season rolls around.

District 1 T. Dianne Bellamy-Small – The embattled city council rep is coming back for another round. Bellamy-Small defeated Luther Falls in 2005 by only 50 votes, and that was before she was accused of leaking a confidential report and intimidating a rookie police officer. There will be plenty of fireworks in this race, and Bellamy-Small’s success may depend on how well she bears up to the recall effort in August and some serious competition in the subsequent election. Florence Gatten, Bellamy-Small’s biggest antagonist on council, dropped out of the running this year, which means the councilmember and her supporters will have to gin up another specter, and fast**, to salvage her seat.

Luther Falls – Falls came so close last election that the announcement of his candidacy this time around was all but assured. The District 1 businessman has updated council on his entrepreneurship promotion efforts at almost every meeting and cuts a distinguished, thoughtful figure. He’s going to be tough to beat.

Tonya Clinkscale – This real estate broker would certainly be in friendly company if elected to the city council since so many of our representatives hail from the development community. She’s served on several community boards and, like Falls, has distanced herself from the effort to recall Bellamy-Small.

District 2 Goldie Wells – in 2005, this district was crowded with primary candidates, but Wells emerged from the run-off the clear favorite of District 2 voters. In her brief time on council, she’s championed social justice initiatives and lobbied to bring economic development to her neglected neck of the woods. She’s not infallible – remember her campaign to give Wal-Mart tax incentives? – but might be a tough target for an untried challenger.

District 3 Zack Matheny – With curmudgeonly Tom Phillips stepping down, this race is wide open. As of Monday, the only candidate was one Zack Matheny, an executive at AG Edwards. Matheny is young, and it would be nice to get someone on council born after Woodstock.

District 4 Mike Barber – Barber, a former county commissioner, has certainly done his utmost to bring the contentiousness of that body to the usually genial city council. He’s threatened to stymie plenty of initiatives put into place long before he was elected in 2005 and argued – without presenting his evidence, natch – that contractors are fleecing the city. He’s won some admirers, namely the editorial board of the Rhino, and plenty of detractors. District 4 should be the most exciting race this side of High Point Road.

David Crawford – David Crawford has 660 MySpace friends. He also declared his candidacy for Congress in 2008 on the same day he declared his candidacy for city council. Whoa there, buddy. One thing at a time. Also, you might need more than 660 votes to win this one.

District 5 Sandy Carmany – the perennial candidate has repped District 5 for almost 16 years, and her constituents seem to be happy with her service. We here at YES! Weekly enjoy campaigning as a democratic exercise, so we’d like to see a challenger step forward. But even we’ll admit that this race might be a David/Goliath kind of deal.

To comment on this story, e-mail Amy Kingsley at amy@yesweekly.com

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