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[UPDATED] Here are the names you'll see on the ballots for the 2021 Durham municipal elections

<p>Only 10.18% of registered voters in Durham County cast a ballot in the municipal primary elections.</p>

Only 10.18% of registered voters in Durham County cast a ballot in the municipal primary elections.

The 2021 Durham municipal elections are ramping up.

Durhamites had from July 26 at noon until Aug. 13 at noon to declare their intent to run for mayor or for city council in Ward I, II or III. Here is an overview of election dates to remember and an early look at some of the candidates.


Current mayor Steve Schewel announced in May that he would not be running for re-election, while Elaine O’Neal declared her intent to run in January. 

O’Neal, a retired Superior Court judge, former interim dean at the North Carolina Central University School of Law and racial equity advocate, said her platform will be shaped by discussions she has with the community. If elected, she would be the first African American woman to serve as mayor.

Jahnmaud Lane, a member of the Durham GOP, filed to run for mayor Monday. Lane runs "Mind of Jamal," an online series he describes as a "news reporting service," on Facebook and Rumble, a video-sharing platform. The show appears to have been suspended on Twitter for violating its terms of service. Lane has also been outspoken online about being unvaccinated.   

Bree Davis filed to run for mayor Aug. 2. Davis, a research coordinator at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and social media strategist, aims to secure a “better and stronger Durham.” Davis supports the People’s Alliance, a progressive organization that Schewel and other Durham city officials are affiliated with. Like O’Neal, if elected Davis would be the first African American woman mayor.

Daryl Quick joined the race Aug. 11. On his personal social media, he wrote that he was running for mayor to support children who grew up in conditions similar to him. 

Charlitta Burruss, who previously ran for City Council in 2019, also entered the race Aug. 11. Burruss has been outspoken about community violence and advocates for more transparency between police and communities.

Rebecca Barnes filed Aug. 13. She has extensive volunteer experience in Durham.

Javiera Caballero, a current at-large councilmember, filed Aug. 13 with the support of mayor pro tempore Jillian Johnson.

Ward I

The Ward I seat is currently held by DeDreana Freeman, who is running for re-election. Freeman’s platform includes community health and safety, increasing access to renewable energy, establishing a tenant’s bill of rights and supporting local businesses and “smart transportation networks.”

Marion T. Johnson, Sanford ‘14, announced her candidacy for Ward I representative on Twitter April 12. The campaign hashtag, #ChooseDurham, draws parallels to a quote on its website about choosing “a Durham that’s accessible, affordable and livable for all.”

Johnson’s platform focuses on accessibility, progressive economic policy, environmental justice, housing justice, public safety and equity. The campaign has a variety of events planned in the upcoming weeks, including door-knocking on July 31.

Elizabeth “Liz” Takla emphasizes “furthering Durham in a progressive direction” on her campaign website. Takla’s platform includes increased funding for Durham Public Schools, rehabilitating city-owned affordable housing and increasing compensation for police, firefighters and other “community response personnel.” The campaign also stated its efforts to be anti-racist and uplift marginalized voices.

Waldo Fenner filed to run for Ward I representative July 27. Fenner has been outspoken about anti-Black racism on his personal social media and has previously challenged city and county entities in court.

Ward II

Robert L. Curtis, Jr. became the first to file to run in Ward II on Aug. 2.

Mark Anthony Middleton is the current representative for Ward II. He filed for re-election Aug. 6.

Sylvester Williams, who previously ran for mayor four times, filed Aug. 12. He advocates for greater socioeconomic and racial equity but has faced criticism for his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Ward III

Ward III will gain a new representative in this year’s election.

Leonardo Williams, co-owner of Zweli’s in Durham, announced in June that he would be running for the position, one day after Pierce Freelon announced he did not plan to run for re-election. According to his website, he will be hosting a campaign kickoff Aug. 1 at The Fruit.

AJ Williams joined the race for Ward III Aug. 3. Williams is director of incubation and ideation labs for Southern Vision Alliance, an organization that provides assistance to grassroots initiatives in southern states. He is also affiliated with Durham Beyond Policing and other abolitionist organizations.

Important dates

Nadia Bey | Digital Strategy Director

Nadia Bey is a Trinity senior and digital strategy director for The Chronicle’s 118th volume. She was previously managing editor for Volume 117.


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