The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Conservatives sweep city council election

Taking much of Greensboro by surprise, Republican Bill Knight defeated Mayor Yvonne Johnson by less than 1000 votes, carrying only 51.3 percent of the vote.

Johnson was previously a longtime City Council member. Knight has never held elected office, but received many votes for his pro-business platform and his desire to stop focusing on social issues. Almost every candidate endorsed by the Rhinoceros Times, the city’s weekly Republican paper, won the election, with the exception of Luther Falls Jr. in District 1. When asked by the Rhino Times why he won, Knight said, “Because I am a fiscal conservative.”

Knight carried almost every precinct in mostly white West Greensboro and Johnson won every precinct in East Greensboro, where most people of color in the city live. Knight is white and Johnson is black.

“There’s a definite division,” candidate and Human Relations Commissioner Marikay Abuzuaiter told The Guilfordian. “There are some major disparities between East and West (Greensboro).”

The results of the Nov. 3 election shifted the balance on Greensboro City Council where liberal and progressive Council members held a slight majority. Republicans Danny Thompson and former Council member Nancy Vaughan were elected at large alongside current Council member Robbie Perkins.

The new City Council and mayor will officially take office after being sworn in on Dec. 1.

Only 18 percent of registered voters participated in the general election this year.

Guilford’s campus is in District 4, and with Council member Mike Barber stepping down, the district saw a competition between at-large representative and Republican Mary Rakestraw and progressive Joel Landau, who heads the Greensboro Sustainability Council. Rakestraw defeated Landau by less than 300 votes.

Only District 1 witnessed a closer race, as most district winners came away with a more substantial victory.

When asked by the Guilfordian how she would represent the Guilford community as the new District 4 representative, Rakestraw said, “I don’t think Guilford College is in my district.”

Her competitor Joel Landau, who was aware that Guilford’s campus fell within his district, had come to campus to meet with the Guilford Democrats to build support for his campaign. Landau could not immediately be reached for comment following the election

Vaughan won the at-large Council race with 18,010 votes, nearly 2,000 more than her competitors. There are three at-large Council seats.

“I think that we need to learn how to utilize the student bodies more effectively,” Vaughan told The Guilfordian. “I always think that we can take advantage of the talent that we have right here at home and give students the opportunity to work with the government through an internship program.”

Perkins, who came in second in the at-large race to continue his time on Council, said he is looking forward to serving again but did not expect Knight to win.

“The mayoral race was a little bit of a surprise but I felt good about my own race and that’s the only one you can really run,” he said to the Guilfordian. “This is probably the least-experienced City Council that I have served on, and that I can remember ever.”

Numerous candidates interviewed spoke to the importance of increased student involvement.

“The biggest thing that students need to do is develop a sense of community awareness,” Perkins said. “A lot of times their good ideas can be put into practice. We need students to be vocal in their opinions.”

Once Rakestraw realized that Guilford’s campus is indeed in her District, she spoke about the need for student involvement in local politics.

“I know as a student your time is always taken by your studies and all the activities that go on at a college,” Rakestraw said, “but what I really want is for the students to pay attention because they are the future leaders of our city, county, state and nation. They can call me or they can call the city if they have questions.”

Abuzuaiter, who lost at large to Thompson by 1.6 percent, said, “Students need to go vote because things that council votes on will affect their daily life. Everyone turned out for the presidential election but what affects you most is your municipal election . There are so many things that this Council could pass and I hope they don’t.”

Sandra Anderson-Groat received more votes at large than any candidate in 2005 and 2007 but lost her re-election bid this year. “We want (students) to take ownership of the city and learn things, and students can serve on Boards and Commissions,” Anderson-Groat said.

With no polling place on campus, it is impossible to calculate the number of Guilford students who voted. However, with only 18 percent of registered voters participating, increased student turnout could have altered the turnout of the election.

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