CJ Brinson, who mobilized an enthusiastic cadre of volunteers under the banner of “Black Lives Matter,” fell 12 votes short of a spot on the general election ballot in the contest to represent District 2 on Greensboro City Council, effectively orphaning his supporters as an electoral force.
Goldie Wells, a revered community leader who represented District 2 from 2005 to 2009 and was appointed to fill Jamal Fox’s unexpired term, received a commanding majority, with 53.9 percent of the vote in the Oct. 10 primary. Jim Kee, a businessman who also formerly represented the district on city council, placed second, with 20.6 percent of the vote, while Brinson took 19.6 percent.
Brinson said today that he plans to request a recount on Monday as a matter of process although he doesn’t hold much hope that it will change the outcome of the race.
In the meantime, Brinson is primarily focusing on leveraging his bloc of support to advance the Black Lives Matter agenda in the general election. Rather than formally endorse Wells or Kee, Brinson said he proposed a candidate forum that would include Black Lives Matter, the Stop the Violence Movement, young NAACP members and the Ole Asheboro neighborhood, to let his supporters decide for themselves. Kee readily agreed, but Wells told Brinson in a phone conversation on Friday that she didn’t think the forum was necessary and the primary election results spoke for themselves. The acrimonious fallout between the two candidates has revealed significant differences in philosophy over public safety and police accountability.
“She wants to reinstate the gang unit,” Brinson said. “That was her initiative. I told her: ‘That’s going to really put the lives of young, black voters in danger in the district.’ Her voice may be the voice of northeast Greensboro, but it’s definitely not the voice of the masses.”
Wells recalled the conversation somewhat differently. “When I was elected in 2005 we had seven homicides and I was disturbed about it, and called the community together; a gang unit was formed,” she said. “Now we have 35 [homicides], and we’ll have a gang unit.”
Wells took umbrage at Brinson going public with their conversation.
“I’m in a precarious situation, and you know it,” she said. “I’m already a council member, and this makes it seem like I have some pluses. He knows his folks don’t want any police. They’re against [at-large Councilwoman] Marikay [Abuzuaiter]. We have a lot of things that need to be done in District 2 to get rid of blight and get jobs. The crime is an end result of poverty. He wants to make it look like I am in favor of more police. It’s a smear.”
Brinson, who feels betrayed by Wells’ decision to enter the race, charged that she is too closely aligned with Mayor Nancy Vaughan and other council members backing the police.
“I don’t know if you can trust Jim; we do have a base in place that can hold him accountable,” Brinson said. “Goldie’s relationship to the mayor, to Marikay Abuzuaiter and the police chief is very problematic. Goldie got in the race to block a push from the left in this district, and she has succeeded at that, and has aligned with the same folks who are responsible for oppressing the community. And they’re not Republicans; they’re moderate, liberal Democrats. I think her leadership puts us in grave danger, and then to brush this community off, people that have these concerns is very dangerous.”
Wells noted that Brinson asked her to miss a standing meeting of Citizens for Economic and Environmental Justice to attend the proposed forum, adding that with three different groups hosting forums for District 2, voters have had ample opportunity to ask questions.
And she wants to make it clear that no one put her up to running for the seat. She said she decided to file because she became concerned about Brinson’s leadership style after he disparaged former District 2 representative Jamal Fox for being too accommodating and dismissed the redevelopment of Revolution Mill — a community asset celebrated by Fox.
While Brinson has suggested that the number of officers in predominantly black neighborhoods should be reduced by calling for divestment “from criminalization and mass incarceration” in his campaign, Wells has adopted a more situational stance.
“The police are there to protect us in our community,” she said. “I feel like we do need protection. If there’s gang activity, we need to police it. Gangs have led to more shooting that’s going on. People have access to guns, and they shoot each other. I think that’s the crux of the matter. I do agree that black lives matter.”
When asked specifically if she supports deploying more police officers in District 2, Wells said, “I think that has to be researched and discussed. I think our police department is trying to go into communities and talk to people. Because of the mistrust they’re not getting the cooperation from the community. I’m not just for the police to be in our community shooting our people. I’m into building relationships. We have to work on it.”
Wells said she is open to a discussion about resurrecting the gang unit, which drew controversy during its tenure. The unit devoted significant attention to the Latin Kings, and was accused of harassment and racial profiling. The unit was eventually dismantled and reorganized as an intelligence unit, while Latin Kings leader Jorge Cornell was convicted on federal racketeering charges. Mayor Nancy Vaughan said during a recent interview with Triad City Beat that she attributes the recent rise in violent crime, in part, to the decision to mothball the gang unit.
Wells said she has not spoken with Vaughan about the idea of resurrecting the gang unit, but she believes it’s worth considering.
“I think it should be be vetted; it should be reasearched to see whether it should,” she said. “That should be researched on the council.”
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