10 BEST 2009 CAMPAIGN MOMENTS
Derwin Montgomery, a 21-year-old Winston-Salem State University senior, defeated Democratic incumbent Joycelyn Johnson for the East Ward seat on the Winston-Salem City Council during the Democratic primary on Sept. 15. Montgomery garnered 530 votes or 57 percent of the votes cast in the East Ward. Johnson received 228 votes or 24 percent of the votes cast in the municipal primary. With no Republican challenger, Montgomery is likely to become one of the youngest city council members in recent history. Montgomery attributed his success to more than 400 Winston-Salem State students who supported his candidacy and participated in early voting.
On Aug. 1, at-large candidate Jorge Cornell, whose most impressive leadership credential is that he is the North Carolina inca for the Latin Kings, made merry with a few of his black and gold clad associates on the downtown Greensboro corner of Elm and McGee streets during a Sam Bush concert. When some members of his entourage were confronted by police after “flashing gang signs,” according to a department spokesperson, Cornell intervened and was arrested for it. The most surreal moment — archived forever on YouTube — was when the cop led Cornell away in handcuffs as Cornell’s children screamed and cried. The candidate, cuffed and calm, took the opportunity to deploy a campaign slogan: “Remember this! Jorge Cornell running for city council at large!”
Allen Joines is running unopposed once again. No competition at all. There seems to be something almost undemocratic in that. Why go through the motions without the option to choose between candidates? So this is definitely a best moment in an election year for Joines, that’s for sure. But it seems like we, the voters, are getting slighted. There must be a qualified person out there who would be interested in stepping up; it’s a matter of finding her and giving her a crack at it. There are many places to look for such a person — perhaps some of the newly unemployed Dell workers might want to give it a go in 2011.
Nathan Tabor, president of the Forsyth County Republican Party, announced the party had withdrawn all support for Lawrence Chester “Chuck” Woolard, the Republican candidate running for the Southeast Ward set on the Winston- Salem City Council, during an Oct. 29 telephone interview with YES! Weekly. Tabor said local party officials were not aware of Woolard’s past criminal convictions for forgery and marijuana possession, as well as the multiple civil judgments levied against him in connection with his home improvement businesses, C&W Home Improvement and RCW Design Construction, LLC. Woolard was sentenced to five years of supervised probation and forced to pay court costs. Tabor said the Forsyth County Republican Party does not have a constitutional obligation to vet all Republican candidates running for local office.
SHELL GAME I
Though he ended up receiving only 5.8 percent of the vote in the primary, Greensboro candidate Ryan Shell proved to be one of the most high-profile campaigners thanks to his frequent attendance of city council meetings, near ubiquitous social media presence and formidable canvassing effort. Before current District 2 frontrunner Jim Kee had declared his intentions to run, Shell was publicizing his candidacy in District 2. Shell complained about YES! Weekly publishing the fact that he was a registered member of the Republican Party.
Later, for reasons that remain unclear, he transferred to the at-large race. In late August, Shell was confirmed as a candidate at a forum hosted by the Democratic Women of Guilford County, and an active party member confirmed that Shell had switched registration to the Democratic Party in the past week. The revelation angered members of both parties, and left many observers scratching their heads considering that Greensboro municipal elections are nonpartisan. County GOP Chairman Bill Wright complained, “He used our party… and me personally for his own political gain…. He is immature and not ready for the responsibilities that come with being an elected official. Not to mention, his questionable integrity.” And
Democratic operative Janet Wright told Shell on his blog: “Your lack of decisiveness makes you a risky candidate for me. What are you going to do when you are faced with a tough decision? You can’t even decide whether you want to be a Democrat or Republican.”
RED-BAITING IN D-4
The big guns in Greensboro conservative political circles began popping off at District 4 candidate Joel Landau, taking their cues from opponent Mary Rakestraw, who had posed the question to Landau: “Your website has listed at least one controversial political activist supporter (e.g. a Communist Workers Party organizer). Why are you removing names, and have you received any financial contributions from them?” The supporter in question was Signe Waller Foxworth, whose husband was killed in the 1979 Klan-Nazi shootings and who was a member of the Communist Workers Party before its dissolution more than 25 years ago. Landau was forced to admit that he had removed Waller Foxworth’s name from his website after another supporter suggested to him that it might be a distraction. County GOP Executive Director Tony Wilkins took up the cudgel for fellow Republican Rakestraw, writing on his blog: “Your attempt to hide the association sends a message of deception, deceit and hypocrisy.”
Larry Little, a Winston-Salem State University professor, said he did not give extra credit or grades to students as a reward for voting for WSSU senior and city council candidate Derwin Montgomery. Little said Joycelyn Johnson, the 16-year Democratic incumbent city councilwoman defeated by Montgomery in the East Ward primary, has leveled accusations that he exercised undue influence over his students to support Montgomery’s candidacy. Little said he advised Montgomery during his campaign, and encouraged his students in his American government class to vote for Montgomery, but never promised a grade or extra credit if they did so. The Rev. Carlton AG Eversley, who teaches an African American cultures class at WSSU said he did offer extra credit to students who voted in the municipal primary, but did not make it contingent upon their voting for Montgomery. Eversley said out of 60 students in the class, less than 10 took advantage of his offer.
RUNOFF IN THE SOUTHEAST WARD
James Taylor, a 28-year-old juvenile justice counselor, pulled off an improbable victory in Winston-Salem’s Southeast Ward, defeating incumbent Evelyn Terry by more than 100 votes during an Oct. 6 runoff election. Terry had edged Taylor by 10 votes in the Sept. 15 primary, but failed to win 40 percent of the vote. Local election law mandates that if a candidate fails to receive more than 40 percent of the votes cast, there must be a runoff between the top two vote-getters. On election night, Terry referred to Joycelyn Johnson’s defeat in the East Ward race, calling herself “the other person to be dumped.” Terry called Taylor later that night to congratulate him and pledged her support for his candidacy in the general election.
SHELL GAME II
We admired Ryan Shell’s pluck and ingenuity during his unsuccessful run at an at-large seat, and commented that his use of free new media made $1,000 in his hands like $3,000 in any other candidate’s. But seriously dude… it’s guys like you who give the Facebook status update a bad name. Shell may have upped his Google quotient — and certainly we all know more about his social life and his diet — but his Twitter chatter didn’t do much to heighten his statesman-like gravitas.
During an Aug. 18 candidate forum, Winston-Salem Mayor Pro Tem Vivian Burke responded to a question about low voter turnout in municipal elections by stating, “The turnout is terrible.
You know why? We don’t have strong parties for one thing. We don’t have a strong Democratic party. We don’t have a strong Republican party…. I think it starts from the head of your Democratic party.” Fleming El-Amin, chair of the Forsyth County Republican Party, was present at the time of Burke’s remarks.