Thursday, June 13, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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BACKGROUND: The candidates, questionnaire, and the newspaper’s coverage

Burlington voters will head to the polls on October 5 to narrow their sections for mayor and city council.

Five candidates have filed for mayor and six for city council. The primary will whittle that list to the top two candidates for mayor, who will face off on November 2, and trim the list of six city council candidates to four, from which voters will select the top two also on November 2.

Incumbent mayor Ian Baltutis is seeking re-election to his fourth, two-year term. He faces fellow council member Jim Butler, as well as Walter Boyd, Caleb J. Massey, and Donna Vanhook.

In the race for city council, there are two seats on the ballot. First-term incumbent and former city manager Harold Owen is seeking re-election; former mayor Ronnie Wall is seeking a return to the council as a city councilman, the position where he began his municipal career in 2006 (later becoming mayor in 2008). Also running for a council seat are former county commissioner Bob Byrd, retired police officer Wendy Jordan, Charlie Beasley, and Dejuana Warren Bigelow.

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All five mayoral candidates and five of six council candidates responded to the newspaper’s biennial issues questionnaire and request for biographical information.

The sole candidate who did not provide any response is Bigelow. The newspaper was unable to reach Bigelow by phone; unlike most of the candidates, she had not left a phone number with the Alamance County Board of Elections, and neither her website nor her campaign page on Facebook list a number.

Instead, the newspaper tried repeatedly to reach Bigelow electronically, both by a campaign email address that was listed on her campaign website and Facebook page and by Facebook messenger. She never responded to any of the newspaper’s requests for positions or biographical information, nor did she provide any explanation of why she had chosen not to respond.

All candidates were informed at the outset that in the event they chose not to respond, they would be listed as “Refused to respond,” and that notation is made in Bigelow’s column for all of the 21 questions.

The newspaper’s publisher also told all the candidates that when their positions are known – whether from other public comments, website policy positions, or other means – known, a notation of their positions on issues relevant to the questionnaire would be included; however, the newspaper could find no substantive policy statements by Bigelow to be included – even by this alternative method.

Nine of the ten candidates who did respond provided their own answers to the newspaper’s issues questionnaire. Most stayed within the word limits specified; in a few cases, however, the newspaper has edited responses that exceeded those limits in order to remain within the specified word limits.

The tenth candidate, Vanhook, opted to be interviewed by one of the newspaper’s reporters (an option given to all candidates), who transcribed her positions to fit within the questionnaire format.

Candidate biographies, as supplied by the candidates, begin on page 4. Answers to the newspaper’s questions about city issues begin on page 5.

[Editor’s Note: because of the large number of candidates, the newspaper found it necessary to display the responses in the rather unorthodox manner of turning the election grid sideways in order to display all of the candidate responses. Mayoral responses are to the left of the questions (the same questions were asked of both mayoral and council candidates) with council candidate responses to the right of the questions.]

For other Burlington election coverage, see these stories:

Where do the candidates stand on the issues?

Background on the newspaper questionnaire, introduction of the candidates for mayor (5) and city council (6):

Biographical information on the candidates:

Campaign finance reports reveal money pouring into Burlington campaigns:

Mayor concerned about proliferation of political signs — both in city right-of-ways and on city properties, such as parks:

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