The results for Durham’s 2023 municipal elections are in.

Leonardo Williams saw an expected victory in the mayoral race, beating out state senator Mike Woodard. Williams, a sitting council member, won 63 percent of the vote. 

In an address to supporters who had gathered at a rooftop bar downtown, selected as a venue for its vantage point of City Hall, Williams said he was “ready to get to work.”

“I remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach when I first said I was going to do this,” Williams said. “It was a nervous energy because I was excited about what we could accomplish.”

Durham council member Leonardo Williams, standing next to this wife Zweli, addresses supporters at The Velvet Hippo following his win in the Durham mayor’s race Credit: Photo by Justin Laidlaw

When Williams is sworn in as mayor in December, the Ward 3 city council seat that he currently occupies will be vacant and council members will be tasked with appointing someone to fill the vacancy. 

The races for Durham’s three at-large city council seats panned out the same way they did in the primary, with Nate Baker, Javiera Caballero, and Carl Rist emerging as the top three vote-getters. Baker won the most votes, with 22.5 percent of ballots cast. Caballero and Rist pulled in 22 and 21 percent of the vote respectively. 

When the results were in, Baker, whose watch party was held at a beer garden, stood on a picnic table and delivered a spirited speech to supporters.

“We went up against a well-oiled, well-financed political machine,” he said. “We went up against PACs and real estate developers. We went up against all of this, and we won.”

An urban planner and planning commissioner, Baker stressed responsible land use and sustainable growth during his campaign.

“There’s a fine line between me as a person and me as a political candidate,” he told the crowd last night.

Durham council candidate Nate Baker gives a victory speech to supporters at Ponysaurus Credit: Photo by Lena Geller

At a bar nearby, Monique Holsey-Hyman, who was running for re-election to council, kept in good spirits despite her fifth place position in voting counts. 

“I feel that I showed that you can be a politician and still have integrity,” Holsey-Hyman said. In September, Holsey-Hyman was cleared of allegations of extortion and misconduct after a months-long investigation by the SBI. The allegations likely hurt her chances for re-election, she said last night.

The slate of council candidates endorsed by the People’s Alliance PAC—Rist, Caballero, and Khalilah Karim, who received the fourth-most votes—held a joint-watch party at an Indian restaurant on Main Street.

The three gave back-to-back remarks at a mic while the last ballot counts trickled in.

“We’re gonna keep pushing a progressive vision in Durham,” said Caballero, who has held her seat on council since 2018. “We’re gonna keep pushing on affordable housing, and we’re gonna keep pushing on immigrant and refugee issues. We are going to ensure we are the progressive beacon of the South.”

Shelia Huggins, who dropped out of the race for Durham’s at-large council seats last month after making it through the primary, finished last. Huggins may seek the appointment to Williams’s Ward 3 seat, the News & Observer reported.

Huggins received 8,600 votes, or 8.2 percent, despite dropping out, according to yesterday’s results.

In total, 38,848 people, a dismal 19 percent of registered voters, cast ballots in Durham. But it’s slightly better than 2021, when only 15 percent of the electorate voted in the municipal election, and in line with 2019, when, again, 19 percent of Durham voters cast ballots.

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