HIGH POINT

Mayoral (vote for 1)

Jay Wagner: A moderate Republican first elected to city council in 2012, Jay Wagner has gradually watched political sentiment shift in favor of his stance in support of targeted investment in downtown High Point to rebuild the city’s tax base. An unabashed proponent of a planned downtown stadium conceived as a “catalyst project,” Wagner argues that now that the public, the business community and High Point University are on the same page, he’s the candidate that has the confidence of all three groups to get the project done. Wagner has the backing of a new political action committee organized as the political arm of the chamber of commerce that has raised $44,500. The committee is so formidable that it’s widely known in High Point as “the PAC.” Since the Guilford County Commission has so far shown reluctance to assist with financing for the project, Wagner argues the city needs should be prepared to go it alone. Voters signaled support for the stadium during the primary by giving Wagner and Bruce Davis, another pro-stadium candidate, a cumulative 72.5 percent of the vote, while eliminating stadium skeptic Jim Davis from the contest.

Bruce Davis: A daycare operator and former Democratic county commissioner, Bruce Davis concedes no ground as a stadium booster, pointing out that the idea for the project emerged from a convention & visitors bureau retreat he attended as chairman of the board. But he faults Wagner for alienating the county commission, arguing that he doesn’t understand its political culture. As mayor, Davis says he would repair the relationship between the city and the county, adding that he would be more independent of the business interests promoting the stadium than Wagner. “I’m a mustanger, more of a free spirit,” he said during a recent interview. “I’ve come up through the ranks.” Davis demonstrated during the primary that he enjoys strong support across the city by carrying a column of precincts from Deep River Recreation Center at the north end down to Allen Jay Recreation Center at the south end and claiming second place. Davis has also gotten involved in addressing the city’s spiraling violent crime challenge, showing up at community meetings where black residents questioned why the city manager and police chief weren’t there. And although he got off to a late fundraising start, he goes into the general election with a healthy balance and support from an array of players, including stadium proponent Sims Hinds and the wife of High Point University President Nido Qubein.

At-large (vote for up to 2)

Cindy Davis (i): A populist conservative, Cindy Davis typically opposes public investment on the grounds that unnecessary public spending places a burden on poor and elderly property owners. She was the only member of council to cast vote against spending $15 million for land acquisition and site design for the stadium in April. She voted against renaming a street in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., but has earned a measure of respect from African-American constituents by showing up at community meetings. During the 2014 election, she dominated the at-large race, outpacing her nearest competitor by 3.4 percent. This time around, Davis’ stubborn opposition to the stadium — at least as a recipient of public funds without input from voters through a referendum — seems to have hit a headwind of public enthusiasm for the project. Primary voters gave Davis — the only incumbent in the race — third place, after the two candidates backed by the pro-stadium High Point Political Alliance. That means she has ground to make up in the general election if she wants to win one of the two at-large seats.

Britt Moore: A property manager whose primary focus is jobs, Moore served on city council from 2010 to 2014, as the city was recovering from the Great Recession. During his tenure, Moore largely resisted calls for public investment to revitalize downtown High Point. He wasn’t impressed by new urbanist Andres Duany’s proposal to diet North Main Street and use modified shipping containers to populate downtown with pop-up retail stores. But he’s come out as a supporter of the proposed downtown stadium, arguing that High Point can’t afford to pass up an opportunity that could potentially transform its fortunes. His experience and support for the project earned him the endorsement of the High Point Political Alliance. A pragmatist who’s not too wedded to his positions or convinced of his infallibility, Moore has said, “I’ve had up votes and down votes on different issues. The ultimate thing for me is be correct as much as I can. Even when votes don’t go my way, I still want things to go as best as they can.”

Don Scarborough: There’s only one candidate who mayoral contender Jay Wagner concedes might be a more passionate supporter of the stadium project, and that’s Don Scarborough, a retired senior vice president at High Point University who moved to the city as a widower and single father several years ago. “We need to be able to get to know each other in this city,” Scarborough said at a recent candidate forum. “We’ve got this group here, this group here, and never do we have an opportunity for all of us to get together and drink a Coke, eat popcorn, yell and scream, get jumping up and down and having fun. I haven’t seen much of that here in our town. This is a great opportunity for us. I’m behind it 100,000 — 456,000 percent. It is going to change this place… and we will reap the benefits from this stadium.” The High Point Political Alliance apparently appreciated Scarborough’s enthusiasm, and gave him their endorsement.

Mary Lou Andrews Blakeney: If she’d done nothing else, Mary Lou Andrews Blakeney would be more renowned than half the candidates on the ballot simply because as a 15-year-old at William Penn High School she led the effort to desegregate the Woolworth’s lunch counter in High Point in 1960. After retiring, she returned to her hometown and became an advocate for senior services, eventually winning an at-large seat in 2008, only to lose it to Britt Moore two years later. She supports the stadium, but addressing the needs of seniors is still her first priority. Several of the initiatives she supports to allow seniors to maintain their independence, from providing assistance for home repairs to improving public transportation, would benefit other struggling residents as well.

Ward 1 (vote for 1)

Jeff Golden (i): As chair of the community housing, neighborhood development & public safety committee, Jeff Golden is the point person for shepherding demolition orders for condemned properties through council. Answering a question from the High Point Regional Association of Realtors at a recent candidate forum, Golden responded that state law more than adequately protects property rights, and, if anything, he’d like the city to have more tools to address blight and properties that draw repeated police attention. “The property right seems to be protecting the one that leaves his property unattended more so than the one that was doing the right thing,” he said. “So we can’t just come in and demolish that property. We don’t have no authority to sell that property. We don’t have any authority to rehab it ourselves.” He added, “And if we have to do that through some kind of punitive source, I think I would be okay with that. In fact, we talked about that a little bit today, where we’ve got properties where police have come out there multiple times, and nothing changes. The owners are being contacted. Nothing changes. So we’re looking at maybe fining people to do the right thing.” Golden voted with the majority of council to authorize city funds to buy property for the planned stadium.

Willie H. Davis: This election marks the third match-up between Jeff Golden, the current representative of Ward 1, and Willie H. Davis, a driver-trainer with Murrow’s Transfer who chairs the Citizens Advisory Council. This year, Davis says he believes voters “are ready to see something new,” but it’s hard to figure out where he differs with Golden on jobs and affordable housing — the two major issues in this economically challenged ward. Count him as a skeptic on the stadium project. “I’m not at this point ready to say yes or no because I don’t know enough about the stadium. I don’t think the council is being transparent about the stadium. I don’t know who’s going to own the stadium. My problem with that… is if we are paying for that stadium, how are we going to get the tax revenue to cover the cost?”

Ward 2 (vote for 1)

Chris Williams (i): An employee of International Market Centers, the behemoth furniture showroom operator, Chris Williams’ adopted blight reduction as his top priority when he was elected to represent Ward 2 in 2014. Covering east-central High Point, Ward 2 includes some of the highest concentrations of poverty in the state. Williams voted in support of the stadium, although he hasn’t made it a focal point of his campaign. Williams told voters at a recent candidate forum that the city is on the right track, citing an increase in code enforcement officers from two to six and the advent of the Operation Inasmuch program, which has translated into home repairs for about 40 households through donated materials and volunteer labor. He said he’s worked closely with High Point Community Against Violence to address rising levels of violent crime. “I think as we work together as a city,” he said, “it will affect the blight, the crime and the hunger.”

David M. Bagley: Motivated by the desire to live close to his father, David Bagley moved from Durham to High Point in 2015. A former property developer, the 27-year-old candidate divested his holdings in April, when he decided to run for council, and has been knocking on doors since July. He highlights the closure of Food Lion on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive as a setback for food security in Ward 2, and proposes a massive investment in environmental remediation along the corridor so that the area can support industrial jobs again. Bagley is interested in a business incubator and job-training programs to promote workforce development, although he’s vague on where the funding would come from and what the city’s role should be. And he’s definitely a skeptic on the stadium project. “Yes, it’s gonna be a lot of jobs, but it’s low-wage jobs,” Bagley said during a recent interview. “If you’re gonna ask a gangbanger who’s selling rock on the corner to take a $9-per-hour job, he’s not going to go for it.”

Ward 3 (vote for 1)

Megan Longstreet: Megan Longstreet decided to enter politics when her 21-year-old daughter suffered a series of strokes and wound up in the hospital after being denied access to coverage through the Affordable Care Act and to Medicaid, and went without health insurance for 10 months. Longstreet’s daughter had already known she had lupus, but the strokes revealed that she also suffers from a rare condition called moyamoya that restricts blood flow to the brain. Her family’s struggles with healthcare motivated Longstreet — a home-schooling mom with a background in electrical engineering and pharmaceutical research — to get involved with the progressive group Indivisible High Point. As a council member, she would apply her concern about healthcare to tackling the opioid crisis. Canvassing Ward 3, which includes the poverty-challenged southwest quadrant, Longstreet said most voters want to talk about the opioid crisis, violence and food deserts instead of the stadium. Although initially skeptical, she said she now supports the project, mostly because it will create a gathering place for an otherwise disconnected city.

Monica Peters: Alyce Hill unseated Judy Mendenhall as representative for Ward 3 as part of a pro-revitalization slate that swept into office in 2014. After only one term, Hill decided to retire and has endorsed Monica Peters as her replacement. Peters helped launch We “Heart” High Point, a citizen initiative to promote revitalization when the previous council was denigrating or watering down core-city initiatives. She organized EbFest Music Festival and Makers Fair, an annual event since 2015. As a board member of the Southwest Renewal Foundation, Peters has been promoting a plan to build a greenway through the area. As a backer of the stadium, Peters is part of the slate endorsed by the High Point Political Alliance, but she’s also keen on repurposing the historic industrial building stock in the ward. “I am also very passionate about restoration of old factories and mills that we have scattered across Ward 3, where industries left back in the ’90s and early 2000s,” Peters said during a recent candidate forum. “And I have firsthand seen that a company that was displaced by the stadium has moved down English and has purchased the old Melrose Mill and is converting it into an awesome, really cool [live-work, cohabitation, co-work] space that will really encourage the entrepreneurial spirit that I think we need to attract millennials, increase economic growth and to make our city great again.”

Ward 4 (vote for 1)

Wesley Hudson: Construction company owner Wesley Hudson doesn’t hesitate to tell anyone he’s a big supporter of Jay Wagner, who currently represents Ward 4 on city council. With Wagner running for mayor, Hudson jumped at the chance to run for the open seat. He locked down 49.5 percent of the vote during the primary, making him the frontrunner in this contest. As an enthusiastic stadium supporter, Hudson enjoys the backing of the High Point Political Alliance. Hudson views the stadium, which would be built in Ward 4 near High Point Regional Hospital, as a solution to many of the city’s challenges. “I would say that the root of a lot of the issues we’re talking about tonight — hunger, violence, drugs, crime — the root is poverty,” he said at a recent candidate forum. “If you want to tackle the issue of poverty, you have to have money. You have to have revenue. A city cannot tackle a problem without resources. If you want to create a way out of poverty, the best way to empower people is to give them jobs, to give them hope.”

Jim Bronnert: A retired custom-car painter who describes himself as “older than dirt,” Jim Bronnert ran for the Ward 4 seat in 2014, but lost to Jay Wagner. At the time, he opposed a proposal to diet North Main Street — a relatively modest proposal to revitalize the core area. The stadium project has made a convert out of him. “I’m 100 percent supportive of it,” said Bronnert, who founded his neighborhood association in Oak View and sits on the Guilford County Parks & Recreation Commission. He cited the once-blighted Over-the-Rhine section of his native Cincinnati as an example of how strategic public investment can pay dividends. “You create a public meeting space, and the next thing you know you’ve got businesses, you’ve got everything happening,” he said. “I think it’s one of the neatest things. I go back to visit Cincinnati quite often. And when I got there and I see things happening and then I come back here and I don’t see anything, it’s discouraging.” A gritty realist, Bronnert cites “the blight, the crime and the heroin” as the three top priorities for the ward. Although he only received 25.6 percent of the vote, if he’s able to win over the supporters of Jody W. Kearns — who was eliminated in the primary — he might have a shot.

Ward 5 (vote for 1)

Chris Whitley: Having served on city council from 1992 to 2001 and then again from 2003 to 2012, Chris Whitley exemplifies the revolving-door quality of High Point politics. He gave up his seat in 2012 to make an unsuccessful bid for mayor, backing Jim Davis as his replacement. Davis’ unsuccessful bid for mayor this year — he was eliminated in the primary — cleared a path for Whitley to run again. It’s hard be opposed to the stadium in this election, but Whitley, a fiscal conservative who took 47.7 percent of the vote in the primary, comes pretty close. He praises High Point University President Nido Qubein for raising $50 million to support the project, but argues that the council had five years to put the project on the ballot as a bond referendum to give voters a say. Now that the city has purchased the land for the stadium, Whitley says the project needs to go forward, with or without the county’s support. He said he would scrutinize the project closely and make sure all the environmental assessments are done before the city takes on additional liability. “I was the finance chairman for basically seven years,” he says. “I know what needs to be done.”

Vic Jones: It’s a testament to how dramatically public opinion in High Point has shifted on the issue of revitalization that the stadium project is popular even in suburban Ward 5. Vic Jones, a Marine veteran and who owns a limousine service, trucking company and insurance company, earned the endorsement of the High Point Political Alliance through his energetic outreach to business leaders. Jones has also taken the pulse of the ward through an aggressive canvassing effort. “I was fully prepared to have some opposition to the catalyst project,” he said. “I thought there was gonna be a lot of naysayers. But I’m going to tell you out of a thousand people, there’s been one person. There was one gentleman who had some questions, but he wasn’t particularly negative…. I’m here to represent the interests of the people that live in my ward. So if one of a thousand — if I’m doing my math right, it’s 99.9 percent — believe this is good for their kids, they believe it’s good for jobs, they believe it’s good to take the burden off the tax base from those declining properties — it’s gonna be good for our economy.”

Ward 6 (vote for 1)

Jason Ewing (i): A realtor with Keller Williams, Jason Ewing was first elected to represent Ward 6 in the affluent northeast corner of the city in 2012. Now seeking his third term, Ewing is in the enviable position of being the only candidate on the ballot who is running unopposed. Once a skeptic of public investment in the core city, he’s coalesced with his colleagues on the current pro-revitalization council. At a recent candidate forum, Ewing championed the city council’s three strategic goals: increasing the population of millennials, aggressive code enforcement and creating a catalyst project. “My focus is to continue with those three because they’re not complete yet,” Ewing said. “They’re still in process, but I think it’s taking us in the right direction.”

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