Candidates face off amid the most-expensive Durham mayoral race ever

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For the first time in 16 years, the city of Durham is holding an election for mayor without Bill Bell's name on the ballot.

For the first time in 16 years, the City of Durham is holding an election for mayor without Bill Bell's name on the ballot. Bell is retiring from public life and leaves behind a city dramatically different than it was when he took office in 2001.

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At a candidate's forum Monday night at the Durham East Regional Library, four of the six candidates vying to succeed Bell in the mayor's office took questions from voters.

Three of the candidates have together raised a record amount of campaign cash; making this the most expensive Durham mayoral race, at this point, in the city's history.


Pierce Freelon

  • Age: 33

  • Occupation: College lecturer, rapper, founder of Blackspace

  • Elected Offices: None

  • Experience: North Carolina Arts Council, former board member

  • Mid-Race Fundraising: $59,844

"I'm an artist, I'm a rapper, I'm also a professor. I'm a father, I've been married for 10 years. I've been on several boards. And I come with a myriad of experiences and that makes me more representative of Durham than anyone else who is running," Freelon told ABC11 following the candidate's forum

Steve Schewel

  • Age: 66

  • Occupation: Visiting assistant professor, Duke University

  • Elected offices: Durham City Council (2011-present), Durham Public Schools Board of Education, 2004-2008

  • Mid-Race Fundraising: $14, 617

"We've got to make the city we live, a city for all; that's the thing we really want to make happen. We want to make sure that everybody is sharing in our newfound prosperity," Schewel told ABC11 following the forum.

Farad Ali

  • Age: 50

  • Occupation: President/CEO, The Institute

  • Elected Offices: Durham City Council, 2007-11

  • Experience: Chairperson, Raleigh-Durham International Airport Authority (2012-present)

  • Mid-Race Fundraising: $59,881

Forum organizers said Ali could not attend because of a scheduling conflict.

Shea Ramirez, a Durham tax preparer addressed the forum along with retired financial analyst Sylvester Williams.

Ramirez is a first-time mayoral candidate, while Williams, who served on the Youth Services Advisory board has run for mayor before.

Early voting began last week. The primary election is October 10.

The general election is Tuesday, November 7.
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