Winston-Salem City Council endorsements Sept. 15 primary

by the YES! Staff


In the Republican primary for Winston-Salem’s Northwest Ward, YES! Weekly endorses Peter Sorensen. In his first bid for elective office, Sorensen has clearly defined his positions on the important issues facing residents of the Northwest Ward. He is an opponent of forced annexation and believes the city council focuses far too much on providing amenities for the downtown area while neglecting the neighborhoods in the outlying areas. Sorensen strenuously opposed any public financing of the downtown ballpark, which sits in the Northwest Ward. “We should’ve been very wary that private enterprise didn’t want to do it on its own,” Sorensen said. “I just want to bring accountability [to the council]. I’m for smaller and smarter government.” Sorensen’s primary opponents, Matthew Shelton and Jim Painter, have failed to clearly articulate their reasons for getting into the city council race. Sorensen’s base of support, especially in the northernmost part of the Northwest Ward, could make him a tough challenger for Democratic incumbent Wanda Merschel on Nov. 3.


In the Republican primary for Winston-Salem’s Southwest Ward, YES! Weekly endorses Ted Shipley. A 31-year-old attorney, Shipley is an opponent of forced annexation. His vision of Winston-Salem’s future includes lowering taxes on businesses and individuals to foster greater economic development. Shipley believes he will appeal to conservative Democrats in the Southwest Ward who opposed the city loaning an additional $15.7 million to Winston-Salem Dash owner Billy Prim to complete construction of the downtown ballpark. Democratic incumbent Dan Besse crushed Shipley’s primary opponent, Donald T. Shaw, in 2005. There’s no reason to think this year’s general election would be any different if Shaw won his party’s nomination. Also, new blood and fresh ideas would be an asset in council chambers. At age 54, Besse is the youngest member of the elected body.


In the Democratic primary for Winston-Salem’s South Ward, YES! Weekly endorses Molly Leight. A oneterm Democratic incumbent, Leight considers herself a “public servant and activist.” Leight never aspired to run for office, and those are exactly the kind of citizens Winston-Salem needs serving on the city council. Anyone who refers to the city’s tree ordinance as a “puny ordinance” because it doesn’t go far enough to protect the environment gets YES! Weekly’s endorsement anytime. Granted, Leight’s opponent, Wesley Hudson, also doesn’t believe the tree ordinance does enough to protect green space, but Leight’s record of community service gives her a slight edge in this contest.


In the Democratic primary for Winston-Salem’s Southeast Ward, YES! Weekly endorses James Taylor. In one of the most heated and controversial city council races in Winston-Salem, Taylor has distinguished himselfby maintaining his composure during key moments in the campaign. In oneof his better moments, Taylor contrasted his philosophy of publicservice to that of Democratic incumbent Evelyn Terry during theSoutheast Ward candidate forum last month. After Terry effectively toldthe audience it was their responsibility to get more involved in theircommunities and make their voices heard at City Hall, Taylor respondedimmediately. “It’s not only your responsibility to fix these things;it’s our responsibility,” he said. Jimmy Boyd, a retired policesupervisor, spoke in clich’s and campaign slogans. Taylor stood up forthe Southeast Ward residents who expressed concerns that night. Andwhen an audience member confronted Terry about her record of service,the tone of the forum turned so negative that many people walked out.But Taylor, a juvenile justice counselor, kept fighting to make hisvoice heard. A member of the Silk Plant Forest Citizen ReviewCommittee, Taylor was the first member to state his belief that KalvinMichael Smith had suffered a great injustice at the hands of theWinston-Salem PD and the Forsyth County DA’s Office. That kind of boldaction takes courage, the kind of courage that will serve Taylor wellon the city council.


Inthe Democratic primary for Winston-Salem’s East Ward, YES! Weeklyendorses Derwin Montgomery. A senior at Winston-Salem State, Montgomeryembodies the idealism and faith in our government and institutions thathas fallen by the wayside. It could be argued that Montgomery’scandidacy is a direct result of President Obama’s victory lastNovember. A Deans Scholar, Montgomery is working toward his politicalscience degree. He serves as the first vice president of the NAACP’sYouth & College Division and a mentor for at-risk youth. A youthminister at Calvary Baptist Church, Montgomery plans on enrolling atWake Forest University next fall and entering the dual-degree programfor the law school and divinity school. On Aug. 28, Montgomery calledupon the city council to instruct City Manager Lee Garrity to orderPolice Chief Scott Cunningham to reopen the Kalvin Michael Smith case.Montgomery also called upon the council to instruct City AttorneyAngela Carmon to file a brief with the NC Court of Appeals in supportof a new trial for Smith. Montgomery’s actions reveal a young man ofintegrity. Longtime Democratic incumbent Joycelyn Johnson has yet topublicly state her position on the citizen committee’s report whichstates it has “no faith” in the investigation of the Winston-SalemPolice Department into the 1995 Jill Marker-Silk Plant Forest assaultcase. Challengers Harold Hairston and Donald Scales both have excellentideas about economic development in the East Ward, but there’s nosubstitute for idealism and faith in government.


In the Democratic primary for Winston-Salem’s Northeast Ward, YES! Weekly proudlyendorses Vivian Burke. Mayor Pro Tem Burke, who has served on thecouncil for 32 years, gets the nod only because her opponent, SamDavis, has failed to participate in any campaign events including acandidate forum last month.


In the Democratic primary for Winston-Salem’s North Ward, YES! Weekly endorsesDD Adams. A political veteran, Adams would be a worthy successor toNelson Malloy, who announced his retirement earlier this year. Adams,55, has worked on more than a dozen campaigns at the local, state andnational level. Currently, Adams serves as secretary of the 12thCongressional District for the Democratic Party. A longtime North Wardresident, Adams also serves on a number of area boards and committees,including Winston-Salem’s Urban League, the United Way Women’sLeadership Council and the city’s Sustainability Commission. In 1990,Adams lost her bid for NC House to Warren P. Odom by a mere 100 votes.She didn’t call for a runoff, but the experience did nothing toextinguish her burning desire to make a difference in her community. DDAdams is fond of saying how much she loves Winston-Salem, and she meansit. Democratic challengers Phillip Carter and Wayne Patterson are bothexcellent candidates but Adams’ maturity, experience and impressivepolitical r’sum’ give her the edge.