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In Chatham, victory for a diverse coalition

By Jeffrey Starkweather
Posted Saturday, July 31, 2004

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The headline on a July 22 N&O article about the results of the Chatham County elections read "Diversity loses in Chatham." Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Chatham Coalition supported a diverse slate of candidates based solely on their positions on the issues.

The Chatham Coalition supported a diverse slate of candidates based solely on their positions on the issues. Our slate included an African-American school board candidate, Norman Clark, who received an overwhelming 68 percent of the vote -- the largest percentage of the vote of any candidate -- and Holly Duncan, a woman, who received 62 percent, the second-largest percentage.

The African-American Caucus of the Democratic Party recently listed its four major concerns as follows: "living wage" jobs, affordable housing, quality education with citizen input, and economic development that creates revenue to support the needs of citizens. The Coalition's issues platform was developed from input of numerous citizen groups and communities across Chatham County, including representatives of the African-American community. All the issues emphasized by the African-American Caucus were a part of our platform issued in March and endorsed by the county commissioner candidates we supported, Patrick Barnes and Mike Cross, who both won their races by large margins with support of the majority of the voters in three-way races.

Rev. Barry Gray, an African-American who was in the same commissioner contest with Cross and Mary Wallace, eventually endorsed the Coalition's platform, including the issue that was key for most voters -- maintaining Chatham's rural character. The Coalition also endorsed Gray's position that funding recreation was an important element of a sound economic development plan. Moreover, Cross ran as past president of the Southeast Chatham Citizens Advisory Council, whose membership is more than one-half African-American.

Nearly a third of the voters in Cross' precinct are African-American and he received 56 percent of the vote, compared to a 15 percent vote for Gray. Clearly, Cross received many African-American votes there, based on his record as a local community leader and his position on these issues.

The Coalition thanks Gray for his support of our issues platform and we applaud his representation of the interests of minority voices during the campaign. The Coalition is committed to supporting a diverse slate again in 2006. We invite Gray, his supporters, and all African-Americans who supported the Coalition's issues of smart growth, economic development that provides living wage jobs, open government where the citizens' voices are heard and quality education, to work with the Coalition to represent the interests of all citizens.

Jeffrey Starkweather

Chair, Chatham Coalition

Pittsboro

 
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