Following incumbent mayor Bill Bell’s retirement announcement earlier this year, several new faces have filed for candidacy in Durham's mayoral race.

Since his initial election in 2001, Bill Bell has been re-elected as mayor of Durham six times. During his tenure, Bell has worked with three Duke presidents—with each administration improving upon the Duke-Durham relationship, Bell said to Durham Magazine. 

In regard to the Duke-Durham relationship, Bell noted that the “lacrosse issue” highlighted some areas to improve. He also said that the current state of race relations were dependent on “where you are.” Racial issues and diversity are central issues in many candidates’ platforms.

The search for Bell's replacement will come to a head in the fall. The primary for the mayoral election will be held on Oct. 10. The general election will be held on Nov. 7.

Of the seven contenders for the mayorship, one candidate in particular has strong ties with Duke.

Candidate Steve Schewel received both his B.A. in 1973 and Ph.D. in 1982 from Duke, and is currently a visiting professor at the University. He’s served on Durham City Council since 2011.

According to his campaign website, one of Schewel’s top priorities is to increase affordable housing, including by doubling the affordable housing expenditure from $2.75 million to $5.5 million. Schewel supports the 18-mile Durham-Orange light rail project and providing access to city spaces in Spanish for Latino residents.

Another candidate, Farad Ali, is also emphasizing the diversity of the community. Also similar to Schewel, Ali has ties to Duke, as he currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Duke University Health System.

Ali served on Durham’s city council from 2007 to 2011. His current campaign for mayor focuses on unity in the community and uses the campaign motto of “One Durham." Like Schewel, Ali is prioritizing building trust between law enforcement and communities, as well as increasing home ownership and affordable housing. Ali is also prioritizing building a strong and diverse economy and reducing poverty.

Although both Schewel and Ali have held elected offices before, several political newcomers are vying for their first elected office.

Perhaps the most buzz has been created by the candidacy of Pierce Freelon. The son of architect Philip Freelon and jazz artist Nnenna Freelon, Pierce is a musician himself. He often organizes arts events around Durham. In a video introducing his platform, Freelon explains that his vision for Durham includes building equal access to opportunities and resources as the city grows.

Another candidate, Tracy Drinker is a retired police officer and current board member of the National Alliance for Mental Illness in North Carolina's Durham chapter. Also prioritizing affordable housing, Drinker splits from the rest of the field by emphasizing the mental health of the low-income population.

Shea Ramirez, a candidate who is concerned about crime in Durham, is a tax preparer and runs a model and talent agency. According to her website, her campaign slogan is "Our Children, Our Community, Our Future."

Michael Johnson, currently retired from his cab business, told the Herald Sun that he is running because of corruption within the Police Department and the state of public parks.

Retired financial analyst Sylvester Williams—a former candidate for mayor—is running again this cycle. His platform also emphasizes affordable housing, specifically noting how the practice of institutional racism impacted the lives of low-income people and minorities.