Minister Mark-Anthony Middleton and engineer John Rooks Jr. forged a commanding lead in the early-voting results in their opening battle for the Durham City Council’s Ward 2 seat.
Middleton led the way with 3,943 votes, 43.7 percent of the total cast in the race by people who took advantage of more than two weeks’ of one-stop voting.
Rooks followed with 3,126, some 34.7 percent of the total.
The next-highest total belonged to teacher LeVon Barnes, who scored 811 votes in early balloting.
Early voting is often a bellwether for how a local election will turn out once its final precinct-by-precint numbers are in. The city’s remaining voters went to the polls Tuesday to winnow the fields for the council’s three ward seats and the mayor’s race, and thus set up next month’s general election.
Ward 2 drew the largest field of the council races. Six people ran in hopes of replacing incumbent council member Eddie Davis, a retired teacher who decided to step down after a single four-year term.
Middleton rose to local prominence via his role in Durham CAN (Durham Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods). He received endorsements from the Friends of Durham and the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, two of the city’s big-three political group.
“It’s going to be a long night,” Middleton said after the first returns came in. “There are still a lot of votes to count … but we are feeling optimistic.”
He added that the No. 1 topic on the campaign trail has been affordable housing. “Everyone knows Durham is on the rise, but the constant motif I heard is how can we get everyone involved.”
Rooks secured the backing of the city’s third major political group, the People’s Alliance, in what was a bit of an upset after supporters argued he’s been instrumental in helping residents of the McDougald Terrace public housing complex.
Barnes got an endorsement from Equality NC, an LBGTQ advocacy group. Rooks, who did not get the group’s nod, later acknowledged that a supporter of his had submitted a questionnaire for him that didn’t reflect his actual views on gay rights.
The remaining candidates in the race are DeAnna Hall, an IT business analyst; Robert Fluet, a client engagement director; and Dolly Reaves, a stay-at-home mom and graduate student. Hall received 793 ballots in early voting, or 8.8 percent. Fluet got 196 votes, about 2.2 percent, and Reaves got 143, or about 1.6 percent.
Precinct-level results are due to continue coming in throughout the evening. The top two vote-getters go on to the Nov. 7 general election.