Justin Outling (i)
When Justin Outling was appointed to replace Zack Matheny — who resigned from city council in June to head Downtown Greensboro Inc. — he became the first African-American to represent the district. Outling dominated the balloting during the Oct. 6 primary, grabbing 60.2 percent of the vote against two other contenders.
His service to the city as former chair of the minimum housing standards commission, along with his history-making accomplishment in breaking the colorline, makes him an appealing candidate to progressives, but Outling is far more complex than the optics might suggest. Starting with his professional background, as an attorney with Brooks Pierce, Outling specializes in business litigation and white-collar criminal defense.
Moving on to his short voting record, Outling’s was one of only two votes cast against raising the minimum wage for city workers and instituting a participatory budgeting program. Bill Burckley, a veteran political consultant, has remarked that Outling’s voting record is consistent with that of Tony Wilkins, otherwise the lone conservative member of the body.
Like Justin Outling, Kurt Collins has served on the leadership committee of the SynerG young professionals group. Collins entered the campaign modeling himself after Matheny, albeit slightly more conservative.
Coming into the primary he earned the support of Conservatives for Guilford County, a tea party-inspired group dissatisfied with the current orientation of the city council. Collins garnered 23 percent of the primary vote, pulling strong support in the suburban Lake Brandt and New Irving Park. The latter neighborhood votes at Lawndale Baptist Church, where the local tea party movement was launched and where Rep. Mark Walker was pastor before being elected to the US Congress..
Collins holds strong civic experience as a member of the human relations commission, where he sits on a panel that hears complaints against the police department. Currently employed as a fraud analyst in the special investigations unit at United Guaranty, Collins also holds a realtor’s license. Like Outling, he’s relatively young.
There’s not much to distinguish the two candidates’ platforms, but the political establishment has largely swung behind Outling, who has been on the job for only about four months. With Conservatives for Guilford County backing Collins, he has embraced the role of the candidate of change.
Nancy Hoffmann (i)
Progressive Nancy Hoffmann ousted conservative Mary Rakestraw in a hard-fought race in 2011, and coasted to victory over deposed conservative mayor Bill Knight when he ran for the seat in 2013. Now seeking her third term, Hoffmann is one of two candidates running unopposed.
In the meantime, Hoffmann has aligned herself with developers while maintaining a progressive voting record on issues like raising the minimum wage for city workers and protecting LGBT people from discrimination in housing and other arenas.
Considering her lack of competition, recent expenditures on advertising and consulting suggest she has her eyes on a bigger prize than Greensboro City Council. Our best guess is that she’ll take a run at state Sen. Trudy Wade.
Tony Wilkins (i)
Like Justin Outling in District 3, Wilkins initially came by his seat in District 5 by appointment, after Trudy Wade vacated it to run for the state Senate in 2013. He subsequently won his first election in 2013. Wilkins had been Wade’s campaign manager in that election and served as executive director of the Guilford County GOP before that.
Since joining council, he’s pushed a plan for an international restaurant row along High Point Road, and contributed to a successful plan to rename the street as Gate City Boulevard.
As a reliable conservative voice in the city’s most conservative district, he voted against raising the minimum wage for city employees and against the city’s financial involvement in the International Civil Rights Center & Museum, though he has said he would soften his stance when it came to dealing with food insecurity in this hungriest area of the nation.
“I tend to be a little bit more agreeable when we’re talking about feeding hungry people,” he said in February during a discussion about the Renaissance Community Co-op.
He was also the lone councilmember to support Wade’s plan to radically alter the way council is structured, how it functions and the way it is elected.
Love him or hate him, we’re stuck with him. His challenger, Maureen Washington, moved out of the district over the summer, making her ineligible for the seat.