Democrats across the country have a mission to expand their numbers of elected officials nationally, from school boards to the White House.
Somebody forgot to tell that to the Democrats in High Point.
On Oct. 8, two of Guilford County’s top Democratic Party performers will square off against a Republican for the opportunity to become the mayor of Guilford County’s second largest city.
The race itself is nonpartisan, with the top two primary winners advancing to the Nov. 5 general election. Money is on Republican Jay Wagner, who is the current mayor, to be one of the top two. That leaves Democrats Bruce Davis and J. Carlvena Foster fighting for the other spot.
For years, High Point had no primary for its municipal elections. In 2012, Bernita Sims, an African American woman, won the mayoral race with only 33% of the vote.
In 2015, High Point citizens voted to change that process. Testing the new method for the first time in 2017, the race pitted Davis and Wagner against each other.
While Wagner won, he edged Davis by only 41 votes. In fact, among High Point voters living in Guilford County, Davis won by 116 votes. It was voters in Davidson County who live within the High Point city limits who handed Wagner the victory.
High Point’s city limits also include voters in Forsyth and Randolph counties, but there were no votes in 2017 for either candidate in those areas.
When Davis announced in February that he wanted another shot at being the city’s mayor, he thought he was setting up Davis-Wagner 2. He was probably counting that he could pick up another 100 or so votes in the Guilford County section of High Point, enough this time, to make him the city’s first African American male mayor.
What he hadn’t counted on was that Foster, who replaced him on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, also was considering a run. In fact, Davis endorsed Foster for the commissioners seat. Davis and Foster run in the same social circles and have mutual friends. What’s MORE, Foster’s sister was previously married to Davis’ brother-in-law, making them family and friends.
For the record, I know both Davis and Foster. Foster and I and Davis’ wife, Angela, are in the same alumnae sorority chapter. Heck, we even serve on one of the same committees.
There is no reason Foster can’t run. She is entitled to. And there’s no reason it should be assumed that Davis owns the position. That’s what a primary election does — give voters a choice.
The concern is that both of them, with similar platforms, are spending precious time and money technically fighting each other, when it would have been better to be more strategic and use this time to build up the number of voters opposed to Wagner. Couldn’t they have checked egos at the door, talked between themselves and drafted a different blueprint?
Who knows what motivated both of them to run at this time. What is known is that they are in the midst of an unnecessary battle for the same Democratic and African American voters at a time when their efforts and money could be better used in November and in preparation for 2020.
So, who’s ahead? It’s hard to tell with a little more than two weeks before the primary.
If money is an indicator, then both Davis and Foster are running neck and neck. According to campaign financial reports, as of Aug. 26, both reported less than $5,000 on hand — Davis had $4,538 and Foster, $4,775. Wagner reported $15,422.
If donors turn into actual voters, then Foster might have the upper hand.
Foster has four supporters who gave $1,000: Marianna Quebein, Nido Quebein, Chad Long and Bernita Sims.
Davis has only one $1,000 contributor: Turner Totten. He also got $500 from the Committee to Elect Melvin “Skip” Alston, who doesn’t live in High Point, and he made a $7,000 loan to his campaign.
State Rep. Cecil Brockman gave money to Davis and Foster, although he made a larger contribution to Foster. Brockman covered all his bases by also contributing to Wagner.
What about presence in the community? It’s still a toss-up. Both candidates have active social media campaigns, showing them about town doing what politicians do.
So, what will happen? Only the High Point voters know. What we do know is that Davis and Foster will have used up most of their on-hand money to fend off each other and will have to start over on Oct. 9, building a bank account to allow them to face off against the better-financed Wagner, who could be sitting back with his champagne chilled.
Seems so pointless. Why couldn’t the Democrats have come together and decided how to move forward?
If this is any indication of 2020, then as actress Bette Davis said in the film “All About Eve,” “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”