North Carolina State Senator Mike Woodard files to run for Durham mayor in 2023

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Wednesday, July 12, 2023
North Carolina State Senator Mike Woodard files to run for Durham mayor in 2023
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North Carolina State Senator Mike Woodard officially filed paperwork Wednesday morning so he could run for Durham mayor this year.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina State Senator Mike Woodard officially filed paperwork Wednesday morning so he could run for Durham mayor this year.

Woodard is a long-time Durham Democrat with an extensive history in politics. He served on the Durham City Council from 2005-2012, and he's been in the state Senate since 2013.

Woodard was considering a run for state treasurer, but he recently told our newsgathering partners at the News and Observer that he felt a pull back to his hometown. An Wednesday, he echoed those sentiments in an interview with ABC11's Anthony Wilson.

"I think Durham is at a critical juncture. We have so many incredible, incredible opportunities here, but challenges that we want to face, too. With Mayor O'Neal deciding not to seek reelection, it just felt like a perfect time for me to bring my experience, my knowledge and my skills to the mayor's role. And I'm just excited about Durham's future," he said.

SEE ALSO | Photo ID required of NC voters in election 2023: Everything you need to know before you vote

The candidate filing period for Durham municipal elections opened July 7. Two other candidates, Charlitta Burruss and Sylvester Williams, have filed to run.

Burruss is a minister who ran for mayor in 2021 and City Council in 2019. Williams is a pastor who has also ran for local office multiple times.

Durham Mayor Pro Tempore Mark-Anthony Middleton is also contemplating a run.

"There are a few more critical conversations that I need to have and will make a final decision afterwards. I should have a decision by this weekend or early next week," he said.

Current Durham Mayor Elaine O'Neil said in June that she would not run for re-election.

Durham's municipal elections are set for Nov. 7. However, all of the candidates running will face off in a primary on Oct. 10. The two top vote-getters for each office will then face off in the November election.

Mike Woodard in his own words

Wilson: "Durham's rapid growth has some people worried that it's becoming unaffordable for people who don't have deep pockets. How will you address that?"

Woodard: "We clearly are going to have to address affordable housing for lower wealth residents as well as for our workforce. It's very hard for the people who work right here in City Hall, our staff, our firefighters, our police officers, our teachers to live in Durham. We want them to live in the community they serve and work in. So, yeah, this is going to be one of my top priorities is continuing the good work we've done on affordable housing and doing even more in the years ahead."

Wilson: "What about the perception that Durham is plagued by crime? How will you address that?"

Woodard: "Well, first of all, we'll get to the root causes. We've got to continue to provide job opportunities for our young people. We've got to do everything we can to get the guns off our street. We are certainly handcuffed to some extent by federal and state policies. And I'm going to fight as hard as I can to get the guns off our streets and to try to get illegal drugs off our streets as well. But it's also showing our young people other ways forward, other positive ways forward in the community and continue to support our law enforcement officers when they're called into these emergencies."

Wilson: "You're a state senator now. How will you deal with that job while seeking the mayor's office?"

Woodard: "Oh, you know, I'm a pretty busy guy and I've always worked pretty hard. So while we're running the mayoral campaign, I'll continue doing my job in the Senate. Hopefully the Senate will conclude its business here in the next month or two. And then that will allow me to concentrate on my campaign for mayor. But I want to continue doing both jobs campaigning and serving in the legislature, serving citizens of Durham. I'm just so excited about Durham's future at this opportunity to work with my new council colleagues when we are all seated in December, working with our administration but most importantly, working with the people of Durham about how our future is going to be stronger and brighter than it is even today."

Wilson: Tell us about your platform for handling public safety services in Durham.

Woodard: "I will say one of my top priorities is going to be making sure that our firefighters, police officers and all city employees are getting a living wage. A real priority for me is going to be maintaining city services. I've always felt Durham had really good city services whether it was in first responders, in water and sewer, in our parks, in our in our streets, transportation. But we have a lot of vacancies in these departments. And making sure that our employees are compensated fairly and appreciated is critical for us maintaining and actually growing our workforce so we can keep these vital services intact for our residents."

Wilson: "City council's made headlines when reports of a loud argument between members after a meeting surfaced. Do you have any comment on that?"

Woodard: "Durham politics has always been spirited. We've had spirited people serving in office. And that's one of the things I think that makes Durham unique and great I think the way we want to keep that tamped down a little bit, we don't want it to look negative in the press. The key for me is communication among all the members -- that we're constantly talking. When I served here before, our council was always in communication, and that's going to be a hallmark of my term as mayor is staying in constant communication with the other council members and our administration. And to the extent we can, making sure that we're all singing off the same sheet of music."

Wilson: "Why are you running for this office?"

Woodard: "One of the decisions figured into my calculus was the timing. Mayor O'Neill chose not to seek reelection, and that left the mayor's seat open. But again, looking at where Durham is and looking at the experience I've gained in Raleigh, I've learned a lot more about transportation, about how affordable housing works at a state level. I've worked more regionally in my Senate job. I believe those are all things that will make me a better mayor. And again, just looking at where Durham is at this time, and I'm just excited about that opportunity."