Mayoral candidates face off in Durham

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – The candidates vying to be Durham’s first new mayor in 16 years are spending the campaign’s final days meeting with voters and laying out plans for dealing with some of the city’s most pressing needs.

CBS North Carolina caught up with them Wednesday at a meet-and-greet in the northern part of the city and at a forum on affordable housing, which took place downtown.

The winner will succeed Bill Bell, who was first elected in 2001.

Fund raising for the race is already in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, with three candidates taking in the majority of that. They include: hip-hop artist and activist Pierce Freelon, former city councilor Farad Ali and current city councilor Steve Schewel. According to reports filed Sept. 5, Ali had raised $109,734; Freelon reported $89,556; Schewel reported $74,074. To view those reports, click here.

Retired financial analyst Sylvester Williams, tax preparer Shea Ramirez and retired police officer Tracy Drinker are also running.

Among the issues the candidates discussed with CBS North Carolina: crime and policing.

Recent statistics from the city’s police department show violent crime has increased 6 percent in the first half of the year compared to the previous year.

We asked the candidates how they plan to address that.

“Yeah, I think the community policing model has been really helpful. We’ve got a new police chief in Chief Davis, who I’ve got a lot of confidence in,” said Farad Ali. “This is not a militaristic police department. This is a police department I have confidence in, and I really have a lot of confidence in the new chief.”

Pierce Freelon said many of the city’s challenges stem from poverty.

“People are going to see a focus on one of the root causes of a lot of the problems Durham is facing, which is poverty,” he said. “Providing people with living-wage jobs with benefits is the best way to make sure our communities are safe and not threatened.”

Steve Schewel pointed to policies he’s supported while on council such as the consent-to-search policy and the adoption of police-worn body cameras.

“We need policing that really can effectively fight violent crime and at the same time is never discriminatory and never racially profiles,” said Schewel. “The issues around policing and trust are intimately related to race because the mistrust is mainly among communities of color, and we have to mend that.”

Durham’s primary election is on Oct. 10.

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