Mayoral candidate Elaine O'Neal poised to join a roster of Black women leading Durham

Tuesday, November 2, 2021
New Durham mayor poised to join roster of Black female leaders
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Elaine O'Neal is expected to be the next Mayor of Durham after her top opponent, Javier Caballero, publicly announced she suspended her campaign.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Elaine O'Neal is expected to be the next Mayor of Durham after her top opponent, Javier Caballero publicly announced she suspended her campaign.

O'Neal could make history tonight.

Elaine O'Neal is poised to become Durham's first Black female mayor.

And if it happens, O'Neal will join a huge roster of Black women leading Durham:

  • Wanda Page, Durham's city manager
  • Claudia Hagar, interim county manager
  • Patrice Andrews, city police chief
  • Satana Deberry, district attorney
  • Brenda Howerton, county board chair
  • Bettina Umstead, Durham school board chair

"I'm excited about the possibility," said Durham resident Teresa Valentine, who voted Tuesday.

"I think if you look at historically the fight in the black community it always been the Black woman whose led the charge. I think it's natural. It's what we do. We fight for ourselves and we fight for others. I think we do a better job of fighting for those who are disenfranchised," she said.

Three city council seats are also on the ballot.

We asked voters what issues are driving them to the polls.

For Sarah Dunsmore, it's selecting a candidate who champions LGBTQ and Immigration rights.

"Just giving voice to these communities that I think are in need for advocacy," said Dunsmore.

For James Lewis, it's crime.

"I'm concerned about the violence in the city and the youth. And someone working with the youth," he said.

CJ Weeks is picking a candidate who's serious about affordable housing and improving existing conditions.

One example. the carbon-monoxide scare in McDougald Terrace a couple years ago, which displaced hundreds of families for months.

"That was a pretty big thing. Just trying to fix up public housing a bit more and make it more affordable for people to live in Durham," said Weeks.

Election officials told ABC11 that the numbers are already showing more people are voting Tuesday than during early voting and during the primary.

O'Neal will replace outgoing Mayor Steve Schewel.