2021 campaigns: competitive mayor races in Burlington, Graham

Races also emerge for city council in Burlington, Graham, Mebane

Since candidate filing officially opened on Friday, the fields in a number of municipal races have grown increasingly crowded with seasoned candidates as well as political newcomers eager to make their mark in this fall’s elections.

Despite Monday’s closure of the elections office in the observance of Independence Day, the first two and a half days of candidate registration have already attracted 30 contenders for the various positions that will appear on the ballot in Alamance County later this year. So far, this initial burst of activity has ignited competitive mayoral races in both Burlington and Graham, while the number of city council candidates in Mebane, Haw River, and Ossipee has already exceeded the available openings.

The flurry of filings has been particularly vigorous in Burlington – which alone of the 10 cities and towns in Alamance County has provisions for a primary in October ahead of November’s general election. As of Wednesday afternoon, the conditions hadn’t been met to trigger this first round of voting, which only takes place when the number of candidates in a particular race is more than double the number of seats that appear on the ballot.

Even so, the city already has the makings of a competitive mayoral race between Burlington’s incumbent mayor Ian Baltutis and Walter Boyd, a local attorney who is also well known as an authority on the community’s history. Boyd and Baltutis, who is seeking his fourth two-year term at the head of Burlington’s city council, were among the first contenders out of the gate after candidate registration began at 12:00 noon on Friday.

Meanwhile, in the race for Burlington’s city council, the first day of filing saw newcomers Charlie Beasley and Dejuana Warren Bigelow throw their hats into the proverbial ring. Since then, these two challengers have been joined by retired city manager and current councilman Harold Owen as well as Bob Byrd, a former county commissioner who lost his seat on the county’s governing board in 2018. As of Wednesday, the local elections office hadn’t yet received the necessary paperwork from Jim Butler, the other incumbent councilman who is up for reelection this year. Any additional candidates for either mayor or city council would trigger an October primary in the respective race.

In Graham, the impending retirement of long-time mayor Jerry Peterman has presented an alluring opportunity for up-and-coming politicos – two of whom have already declared their intentions to run for the city’s top office. Even before the first day of registration, current city council members Chip Turner and Jennifer Talley had announced their plans to seek the mayor’s seat in the pages of The Alamance News. Both Talley and Turner were, likewise, among those who filed to run on the first day of candidate registration. In Turner’s case, the decision to campaign for mayor comes at the cost of his present position, which is one of two available seats on Graham’s city council. The risk in political terms isn’t as significant for Talley, who still has two years left in her current four year-term on the council.

As for the two regular seats on Graham’s city council, they have so far elicited bids from political newcomers Daniel Alvis and Edith J. Montoya. In addition to Turner’s current position, the other available council seat in this year’s election is presently occupied by council member Melody Wiggins, who hasn’t yet signaled her intentions.

Another potentially hot ticket in this year’s election is the mayor’s seat in Elon, which will be undefended for the first time in over a decade due to the imminent retirement of its long-time occupant Jerry Tolley. As of Wednesday, the only candidate to enter the race to become Tolley’s successor is Michael Woods. Also on the ballot in Elon are two regular seats on the town’s board of aldermen that currently belong to incumbents Emily Sharpe and Davis Montgomery. Neither Montgomery or Sharpe had filed for reelection as of Wednesday, although these posts have attracted challenges from Stephanie Bourland and Randy Orwig, who filed with the local elections office on Tuesday.

At last check, a single incumbent had entered the race for Mebane’s city council, which will have three of its seats on the ballot in this year’s general election. Councilman Tim Bradley, who filed his candidacy Tuesday, was preceded in his registration by first-day entrants Charles Lopez and Jonathan White. Lopez, a Hispanic Republican who serves on several state-level party committees, also announced his intention to run for Mebane’s city council in The Alamance News before the filing period began. On Wednesday, Mebane’s former planning director Montreena W. Hadley emerged as the fourth official contender for the city’s three available council seats. Prior to her entry, Hadley settled a lawsuit that she had filed against the city for alleged discrimination after she was passed over for a promotion. As of Wednesday, Bradley’s fellow incumbents Jill Auditori and Everette Greene hadn’t filed with the local elections office.

In Haw River, incumbent councilman Lee Lovette will face challengers Cathy Bellamy Dickens and Shawn Riggan in a race for two council seats. The town’s second available council seat is currently vacant.

In the race for Ossipee’s town council, the council’s two available seats have attracted challenges from newcomers Anderson Braxton, Sandra Boles Gregory, and Jim McAdams. The elections office has yet to receive entries from the incumbent councilmen Mark Whitman and Richard Overman.

Incumbents have nevertheless been quicker to stir in Sweponsville, whose three available council seats have already prompted the registrations of current councilmen Henry Carrouth, Wilbur Suggs, and John Andrews.

The local elections office has also processed the paperwork for the candidacy of Don Tichy, the incumbent mayor of the Village of Alamance. So far, no incumbents have filed for any of the three regular seats that are available on the town’s board of aldermen, although the local elections office did register the candidacy of challenger Lacey Steger on Wednesday afternoon.

In Gibsonville, where aldermen Ken Pleasants and Shannon O’Toole are up for reelection, the only contenders to have so far emerged are challengers Bryant Crisp and Paul Thompson.
The elections office has yet to sign up any candidates for Green Level’s town council, where incumbents Carissa Graves-Henry and Michael Trollinger are up for reelection this year.

Candidate registration will continue at the local elections office for another week and a half before it formally ends at 12:00 noon on Friday, July 16.