Friday, November 9, 2012
What Happened to Omar Beasley in the race for Board of County Commissioners?
Now that the dust has settled on the Presidential election, let’s talk about what happened in the race for the five seats on the Durham Board of County Commissioners.
The traditional rule for those who run for office is to secure as many political endorsements as possible. Victory is correlated to those endorsements. That, combined with voter turnout, determines who wins.
This election reflects an interesting shift. A close examination uncovers voter patterns that prove voters opted to decide based on another reason.
The Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People endorsed Michael Page, Brenda Howerton and Omar Beasley. Howerton and Page won, with Howerton receiving the most votes (18.9%). Page placed third with 18.66% of the votes.
Both seemed to be vulnerable entering the election. Their victory can be attributed to the Durham Committee’s endorsement, but how do you explain Beasley placing last with only 6.89% of the votes? If the success of Howerton and Page is the result of the Durham Committee endorsement, those same voters decided not to vote for Beasley.
Beasley’s exposes a potential break among those who followed the Durham Committee endorsement. Many of those who voted for Howerton and Page decided to go against the Durham Committees recommendation by voting in another way.
Also telling is the performance of Wendy Jacobs. Jacobs placed second with 18.84% of the votes. Could it be that black voters supported Jacobs? It’s a critical question due to the performance of Ellen Reckhow and Fred Foster. Jacobs, Reckhow and Foster all received the endorsement of the People’s Alliance. The PA, like the Durham Committee, only endorsed three candidates. Jacobs’ strong performance, combined with comparative poor numbers from Reckhow and Foster, raises questions regarding the force of the PA endorsement.
The endorsements of both the Durham Committee and the Pa were compromised during this election. The election was won due to strong black turnout, but in this election many of those voters followed the recommendation of the Democratic Party, versus that of the Durham Committee.
The Democratic Party pressed people to vote a straight Democratic ticket. Beasley entered the race after securing 7,000 signatures during a petition drive to be placed on the ballot. A glitch in timing forced Beasley to run as an independent, versus being allowed to run during the Democratic primary.
My own voting experience confirms this strategy. I was approached twice by people who encouraged me to vote straight Democrat. Most voters failed to understand that doing so would leave Beasley on the short end.
The strategy of the Democratic Party compromised the efforts of both the Durham Committee and the People’s Alliance. If the Democratic Party’s agenda was to prevent an Independent from winning a seat on the Board of County Commissioners, they were successful. If that was their objective it’s noteworthy to mention that Beasley is a registered Democrat.
A side note to this past election is the incestuous relationship between the head of Durham’s Democratic Party and the Political Committee Chair of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People. Tracey Burns-Vann, head of the Democratic Party, is the wife of Andre Vann, Chair of the Durham Committee’s Political Committee. Their relationship did not compromise the way both groups functioned. Tracey’s push for a straight Democratic slate went against the Durham Committee desire for voters to vote for three.
It’s a complicated game. At the end of the day, what this election exposes is the complexity of Durham’s political machinery. I’m not sure the end result offers Durham what it deserves in leadership. It’s more about group think and less about real issues that impact all of us.
Someday a candidate will show up who will run without the blessing of the political powerhouses. When that happens, things will change in Durham. As it stands today, voters are manipulated by a process.
This too will pass.