Perkins triumphant in mayor’s race; Johnson wins at-large seat

by YES! Staff

Even with a 600-point cushion and 103 of 106 precincts reporting, Greensboro City Council at-large candidate Marikay Abuzuaiter was not ready to count her chickens. And when her lead dipped to 500 votes, she was despondent.

“It’s happening again,” she said. She was referring to the 2009 election, when she held a slim lead over Danny Thompson as the final numbers fell. She would lose that election, placing fourth in the at-large race by 1,400 or so votes.

But this year she held on, capturing just over 16 percent of the vote, enough to place her with Yvonne Johnson and incumbent Nancy Vaughan as the city’s new at-large coalition.

The night saw the election of a new mayor, Robbie Perkins, who bested incumbent Bill Knight by more than 5,000 votes in what could be seen as a rebuke of the council’s conservative faction, which has held sway since 2009.

“We’ve got an incredible opportunity to pull this community together, and we’re going to do it,” Perkins said once it was clear he would win. “My responsibility is going to be to communicate with everyone on the council and creating a plan for council and the community.”

More than 20 percent of registered voters turned out for the election, up from about 18 percent in 2009.

It was not a good night for the conservative faction on council, the Gang of Four that includes Mayor Knight, at-large representative Danny Thompson, District 4 representative Mary Rakestraw and Dr. Trudy Wade from District 5.

Thompson placed fifth in the field with less than 14 percent of the vote, ahead of Wayne Abraham but behind challenger and fellow conservative Chris Lawyer, who held pace with Abuzuaiter until the very end.

“We worked as hard as we possibly could,” Lawyer said, adding that there was nothing they could’ve done differently to defeat Abuzuaiter. “[My message] isn’t just a message of today— it’s a message for the future. I won’t close the door [on running again].”

Nancy Vaughan pulled 19 percent of the vote, and Johnson continued her juggernaut-like performance by scoring more than 22,000 votes, more than either mayoral candidate, to become the next mayor pro tem.

District 4 incumbent Rakestraw lost out in a horse race against challenger Nancy Hoffmann — at one point as the numbers came across, Hoffmann led by just two votes. The race wouldn’t be called until the very end, with Hoffmann taking the seat by fewer than 300 votes.

Just one member of the Gang of Four managed to hold on to her seat — Trudy Wade, who took District 5 with almost 80 percent of the vote against Jorge Cornell.

Wade was ahead from the start, as long as you weren’t watching the feed on Channel 14 News. The station somehow announced challenger Jorge Cornell as leading with 75 percent of the vote, though the numbers showed the opposite. Cornell and his supporters arrived at the courthouse thrilled about their perceived lead. Cornell lost by over 3,000 votes but still received more support than last election when he ran at large.

In District 1, incumbent Dianne Bellamy-Small proved her mettle by garnering more than 800 votes in Early Voting, an insurmountable lead against challenger DJ Hardy in a race that was over before it began. She won convincingly, with 72 percent of the vote in a grassroots effort that she said relied heavily on early voting.

“I believe in Early Voting,” she said. “I saw how effective it was…. I said, ‘Hmmm. This is something I could use.’” Incumbent Jim Kee handily defeated District 2 challenger C.

Bradley Hunt II, pulling ahead early and staying there, finishing with more than 75 percent of the vote. Likewise incumbent Zack Matheny easily held on to his District 3 seat, besting Jay Ovittore with 78 percent of the vote.

The day’s most egregious example of campaign hijinks surfaced in connection with the mayor’s race. A series of possibly illegal robocalls that began Monday night argued that African-American voters were being forced to choose between two Republican candidates, and that their best course of action would be to write in a candidate — any candidate, other than the ones on the ballot.

The tactic appeared to be designed to chip away at Perkins’ numbers, to the benefit of Knight, but Knight said he had nothing to do with it.

“I wasn’t aware of it,” he said. “I don’t know who or what has done that.”

Both the Conservatives for Guilford County, a community organizing group that backed Knight and other conservative candidates Wade, Lawyer, Thompson and Rakestraw, and Knight’s political consultant Bill Burckley denied involvement in the caper.

As of press time, no one has stepped forward to claim the signs or the calls.