Individuals affiliated with the Duke community have invested over $2,800 into Durham's mayoral election in September alone.

The Chronicle examined the political committee disclosure reports on the county board of elections website to understand how the candidates' fundraising has been influenced by Duke-affiliated employees. Such employees include donors listed on the disclosure as working on the University’s faculty, staff or medical center. In September, Farad Ali, a business consultant and former member of the Durham City Council, received three donations from individuals who listed their occupation as employees of Duke. Steve Schewel, Trinity ’73 and a current member of the city council, received nine.

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, donated $250 to Ali’s campaign in September. He noted that members of the University community are welcomed to get involved in the local race—on their own accord rather than as part of the entity of Duke.

“I view my contributions as an individual,” Schoenfeld said. “Individuals have the right, and I absolutely encourage people to get involved. Farad is an old friend of mine and a good friend of mine, and I wanted to make a contribution to his race.”

Other Duke community members who donated in this election cycle highlighted the importance of the mayoral election. Ruth Grant, professor of political science, explained that she supports Schewel because he has worked in Durham for over 40 years. She also cited his accomplishments in areas she cares about including police reform, education and job creation. 

“It's pretty straightforward—I support his agenda and I think he can get things done,” she wrote in an email.

The three donations Ali received in the period from late August to late September from individuals listed as Duke employees totaled $850.

Schewel, whose history within the Duke community includes being both a Duke student and professor, has outpaced Ali in terms of Duke affiliated donations in September—his nine Duke-affiliated donations garnered $1,950.

Although not receiving the same extent of financial support from the Duke community, Ali’s fundraising has exceeded Schewel’s. At the time of publication, Ali had raised $158,095 compared to $92,197 of fundraising by the Schewel campaign.

Whether this level of fundraising—particularly among Duke community members—is unprecedented for a recent mayoral election is uncertain. In current mayor Bill Bell’s disclosures at this point in his 2013 campaign, for example, it is difficult to find any mentions of Duke affiliations among the contributors. 

Additionally, it is difficult to determine whether Schewel and Ali have received additional support from the Duke community other than the listed donors. Donations totaling less than $100 are aggregated and not reported individually, so it is possible both candidates received additional support from members of the Duke community in smaller amounts. The search also only captured current employees, not alumni and retirees of the University.

In terms of calculating potential results, Schewel has previously stated that Durham is an “endorsement town”—endorsements matter more than money. Thus far, Schewel has received endorsements from the People’s Alliance, Indy Week, Sierra Club, Equality North Carolina, City Workers’ Union, Muslim American Political Affairs Council and AFL-CIO. Ali has received endorsements from Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, Friends of Durham, North Carolina Sheriff Police Alliance, Rev-elution Blog and current mayor Bill Bell

Early voting continues until Saturday, with election day taking place on Nov. 7.