Elaine O'Neal, Javiera Caballero are projected winners in Durham mayoral primary

Joel Brown Image
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
O'Neal, Caballero to face off for Durham mayor: What to know
Elaine O'Neal, a retired judge, and City Council member Javiera Caballero will face off for Durham mayor in November's general election.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Polls closed at 7:30 p.m. for Durham's primary election.

Seven mayoral hopefuls were on the ballot.

With 95% of the total votes in, Elaine O'Neal and Javiera Caballero are the projected winners of the primary.

As of 9:45 p.m., O'Neal has 68% of the vote with 13,187 total and Caballero has 25% with 4,780

Elaine O'Neal and Javiera Caballero are endorsed by key political action committees in Durham.

Check the election results here.

O'Neal, a retired judge, has the endorsement of Friends of Durham and the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People. Her priorities include addressing transportation needs, housing insecurity and poverty in Durham. She has personal experience with gun violence after shots killed her 22-year-old cousin last November. She says more jobs could help reduce that violence as well as poverty rates.

"You've got to know your role, you got to understand your role, you've got to be willing to compromise, you've got to be willing to listen. And in my opinion, Judge Elaine O'Neill is best suited to do that," former mayor Bill Bell said.

Caballero is a member of Durham's city council and is endorsed by the Durham People's Alliance. Her priorities include housing affordability, community safety provided by well-trained, well-paid police officers, infrastructure and transit system improvements. She also wants the city government to be more responsive and inclusive regarding immigrants and refugees who live in Durham.

"She really knows the issues and she has pushed the right things, fought for the right things. She'd be a great mayor," current mayor Steve Schewel said.

Slightly more than 4 percent of voters cast their votes early.

The two people with the most votes will face off in November's general election.

The pandemic meant no big primary watch parties. Instead, O'Neal had a small virtual event with supporters then spoke to ABC11's Joel Brown about the upcoming mayoral showdown.

"I am feeling very excited, just proud and humbled of, you know, by my community support," said O'Neal. "I've never lived anywhere else. I've been educated here in Durham. Everything that I've been doing has been about being a public servant. And but I think at this pivotal time in Durham, community safety is a priority for most of us. And I think that in that arena, I've lived in that arena from the bench for 24 years."

O'Neal's opponent Javiera Caballero has served on the City Council since 2018, when she was appointed to fill Durham Mayor Steve Schewel's old seat.

ABC11's Joel Brown asked Caballero about her plan to solve Durham's crime problems. Some critics have accused her of wanted to defund the police, but she pushed back on that Tuesday.

"Last fall the 911 call analysis that we did said the overwhelming number of calls that come to our call center are not about violent crime," said Caballero. "So if we can focus on taking those responsibilities of our police officers plates -- then it lets us let them actually drill down into the kind of work that we know that they need to do-- the core work which is to help solve violent crime that we know causes so much pain and suffering."