As the Durham mayor and city council primaries heat up, another high-profile endorsement announcement for the next Durham mayor came over the weekend.

Former Durham Mayor Bill Bell, the city’s longest-serving mayor who served for 16 years from 2001 to 2017, endorsed Judge Elaine O’Neal.

In a statement, Bell emphasized that O’Neal, as a Durham native, has a familiarity with the city and its people and that Durham residents also know O’Neal well, too.

“Elaine has the proven intellect, leadership qualities and experience to be Durham’s next Mayor,” Bell wrote. “Her resume and experience are impeccable and provides the qualities we need in our next Mayor, especially during these critical times of Durham’s development.”

O’Neal’s resume is indeed impressive. She served as a District Court judge for 17 years, and was the first woman in Durham County elected as a Chief District Court Judge, before she became the first woman elected as a Superior Court Judge in Durham County in 2011. She retired from the Superior Court in 2018.

O’Neal also served as dean of N.C. Central University’s law school. A leader in racial equity, O’Neal co-chaired the city of Durham’s 17-member Racial Equity Task Force, which submitted a comprehensive report last July.

In January, O’Neal told the INDY she is concerned that Durham is as segregated today as it was in the 1960s, by race and also by class:

“O’Neal says there is enough prosperity in the city ‘for everyone to be fulfilled, enough room for everybody to be productive, there’s room at the table for all; everyone should have a decent standard of living.’

O’Neal points to the disparities between $1 million apartments on one block, and homes on the next where residents are “doing without.”

‘That bothers my spirit,” she said. “That bothers my soul.'”

Primary sample ballots are available for voters to view on the Durham Board of Elections website, as well as a schedule and locations for early voting. And if you’d like to vote by mail, here’s info on absentee voting.

Credit: Indy Week

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