GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – Two longtime partners in Greensboro city government — Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Councilmember Justin Outling — are headed for a showdown for the top job.

Vaughan, mayor since 2013 and a member of the City Council for that, lead the voting among four candidates for another term in office, with about 45% of the vote, but Outling, the current representative of District 3, is close behind with about 35%.

Former Judge Mark Cummings (10%) and businessman Eric Robert (10%) trailed as the field narrowed for final voting on July 26.

The results are unofficial and incomplete until all mail-in ballots are received and counted and the results certified by local and state election officials.

The race had taken on new energy in the past few weeks after Robert filed a lawsuit about the city’s failure to provide public records about a deal made in 2020 by the Greensboro Coliseum to purchase a gun show and shut it down. But now, the question of whether Vaughan gets another four years at the helm is very much up in the air. Outling filed early and is the first serious competition Vaughan has had since she first was elected.

This election was supposed to be staged last year in the 4-year rotation for the county-wide mayor’s race and the district and at-large races to serve on the City Council.

But delays in the execution of the U.S. Census, caused first by politics and then by the COVID-19 pandemic, delayed the release of population counts until early fall, forcing City Council to adopt a truncated calendar in the nonpartisan election.

Primaries were held in four districts and the at-large races for City Council, too. The top two in each district and the top six for the three at-large seats move on to the final vote. Only in District 4, where 11-year incumbent Nancy Hoffman is facing Thurston H. Reeder Jr., was there no need for a primary. Voters in that district will make their choice on July 26.

Outling said he wants to be mayor because “we have fallen behind our peers and the question now is how do we build on that legacy in a way which allows everyone to share our future. I am running because I have listened to the community and I can be an effective advocate who brings the city together around ideas and solutions.  I will provide substance over symbolism.”

Said Vaughan: “I have been honored to serve the residents and businesses of Greensboro as their mayor for a little over eight years.  We have been through a lot of difficult times together; a devastating tornado, a pandemic, a COVID-related recession (and recovery) and issues surrounding public safety.  Through it all, I have shown strong, steady leadership. People need a mayor who puts them first.  Above their own professional career.”

Outling cited a “growing regional economy, avoid becoming two cities by finally delivering on decades of unmet promises to East Greensboro, and deal with a surge in violent crime that has seen us rated (according to US News) the eighth most dangerous city in America.

Vaughan talked about the city’s need for affordable housing. “While we welcome new residents, we must be mindful and intentional of supporting people who have called Greensboro their home. Rents are outpacing wages, there is lack of housing stock, and we must be willing to support programs that will allow people to maintain their homes or have affordable rents,” she said.

Council candidates

Familiar faces are moving on in the races for the five seats on City Council.

Incumbents Yvonne I. Johnson (25%) and Marikay Abuzuaiter (16%) in the at-large field, Sharon Hightower in District 1, Goldie Wells in District 2 and Tammi Thurm in District 5 all led their races. But they all have work to do.

Johnson and Abuzuaiter will face the third incumbent, Hugh Holston (in fourth place), along with challengers Tracy Furman, Linda Wilson and Katie Rossabi, all of who were neck-and-neck at about 10% of the vote, for the three at-large seats.

Hightower had nearly 80% of the vote but will face Felton Foushee to retain her seat. Wells (42%) will face Cecile (CC) Crawford (30%) in District 2, and Thurm (45%) will face former council member Tony Wilkins (42%) in what appears a very close race in District 5, where Thurm unseated Wilkins in 2017.

In District 3, former council member Zack Matheny (61%) will face Chris Roth (28%).

Marikay Abuzuaiter (PHOTO BY CANDIDATE)
Tracy Furman (PHOTO BY CANDIDATE)
Hugh Holston (PHOTO FROM CANDIDATE)
CC Crawford (PHOTO BY CANDIDATE)

Goldie Wells (PHOTO BY CANDIDATE)
Zack Matheny (PHOTO BY CANDIDATE)
Tammi Z. Thurm (PHOTO BY CANDIDATE)
Tony Wilkins (PHOTO BY CANDIDATE)

Abuzuaiter, who has been on the council since 2011, said she is “able to advocate for the issues I am passionate about – public safety, economic development and our infrastructure/transportation.”

Furman said she knows “I could bring new ideas and the drive to move our city forward.  We are growing and we need leadership that can plan that growth so that our housing, jobs and transportation work at peak level at all times.”

Holston said he is all about “jobs, jobs, jobs. It is vitally important that the city of Greensboro regain and build upon the momentum of economic investment and expansion.”

Crawford said she wants “people to be able to afford a safe and decent place to live, because there are too many people who work hard and do not bring home enough money to take care of themselves and their families, and because the violence in this city is not going to stop until we address the root causes.”

Said Wells: “We have made a lot of progress. We’ve seen things happen for the betterment of our community, but the job is not over.”

Matheny touted his “experience managing the economic and social development of the center city gives me a special skillset and clear understanding of what it takes to do the job that the entire city of Greensboro needs today.  Since my last tenure in office, I have further developed my skillset to fit within the needs of our entire community.”

Thurm said the city has “great momentum with a number of job announcements, the Tanger Performing Arts Center completing a historically successful season, and our universities growing and expanding.”

Wilkins touts his experience. “I have lived in Greensboro my entire life. I’ve raised a family and owned and operated a small business here for over 35 years. Because of my knowledge of the city, business experience, and 5 years previous experience on council, I believe I can contribute to making Greensboro a better place to live, work, and raise a family.”