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Bill Kirby Jr.: With 4 challengers, Mitch Colvin may be in the ‘catbird seat’

John Antoine Miner, Franco Webb, Efrain Freddie Delacruz and Nyrell Melvin are bidding for the mayor’s gavel, but “the more folks running for mayor, the better for the incumbent,” George Breece says.

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With four challengers, you might think Mayor Mitch Colvin has something to be concerned about if he wants a third term as mayor.

 You could say the same for the nine Fayetteville City Council district representatives.  

After all, this is a mayor and a council that hasn’t exactly endeared itself to residents with what some residents consider a lack of leadership, in-house squabbling, and in the case of the mayor, some suspect business dealings.  

But … 

“As for the mayor’s race,” George Breece says, “the more folks running for mayor, the better for the incumbent mayor.”  

When it comes to politics, few are more versed on the subject than Breece, a lifelong resident who once served in the state House of Representatives and even went head-to-head with the late Secretary of State Thad Eure. Breece never again sought elected office, although he arguably could have been mayor. Instead, he worked behind the political scenes, and he has the telephone numbers of governors, lieutenant governors, senators and congressional leaders on speed dial. 

He knows politics.  

He knows the politicians.  

He knows political campaigns. 

And if you are considering a run for elected office, you might want to have Breece’s cell number on speed dial, too. 

Breece’s take 

“There has been a lot of buzz and finger-pointing around city politics this year,” Breece says. “That will bring out opponents for most, if not all, council members. Of course, in my opinion, it’s always good for any elective office to have choices for the voters.” 

And this city has choices, notably in the mayoral race with the primary scheduled for 77 days away, and not to forget that early voting opens April 28.

Challenging Colvin are John Antoine Miner, Franco Webb, Efrain Freddie Delacruz and Nyrell Melvin. None of them are what you would call household political names in the community. Melvin is 26 years old but says he’s not happy about how the mayor and the police chief held back the Fayetteville Police Department on May 30, 2020, when protesters damaged the Market House and nearby downtown business properties. 

And all four candidates likely will tell you they are also running because of allegations by former councilwoman Tisha Waddell to include a lack of transparency by the mayor in a private equity firm’s attempt to take over the Fayetteville Public Works Commission. Other allegations deal with the handling of a permit for a proposed halfway house for federal inmates on Cain Road and questions about permits for a downtown property the mayor has in interest in.  

Colvin calls the allegations baseless. A month-long look by CityView TODAY investigative reporter Greg Barnes into Bernhard Capital Partners’ bid to take over the PWC found no signs of corruption but it did find a lack of transparency surrounding the effort.

They are all good people for putting their names up,” Breece says of all the challengers.

But again … 

“This city election is made for incumbents,” Breece says. “It just is. With the short window, it works for all the incumbents.”

And Breece will tell you something else.

“Beating an incumbent is tough,” he says. “There have been incumbent mayors. But it took the right candidate and a trainload of money (to defeat them). If you are trying to run and expose (an opponent), it takes time and money. You don’t do it with one-mailers. If you don’t have money to compete, you’re going to get blown away.”

Money, Breece says, gives Colvin an advantage.

“Mitch Colvin will have the financial resources,” Breece says.

He’s likely right.

This isn’t Colvin’s first political rodeo. He has served on the City Council since 2013.

As for his challengers, they are political novices.

Unless …

They are financially solvent or are working hard to solicit campaign contributors.

Unless “you have someone with their own personal money and can write a check for $25,000,” Breece says.

 Or a campaign supporter who will provide that money.

 “You’ve got to have money and a ground game,” Breece says. “I hate it, but ‘money is the mother’s milk’ of politics. Without the financial resources, a candidate can’t brand themselves or define their opponent.” 

 Primary favors incumbents, too 

 That stands to reason for the mayor’s race. That stands to reason for the City Council races, where: 

- Jose Rodriguez is running in District 1, and where, so far, Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Keefe Jensen hasn’t filed for re-election. The filing period ends at noon Friday. 

- Janene Ackles and former councilman Tyrone Williams are running in District 2 against Shakeyla Ingram, who filed Tuesday for a second term;  

-  John Zimmerman, Mario Benavente and Kurin Keys are challenging Antonio Jones, who filled Waddell’s seat in District 3 when she resigned;  

- Thomas Greene is challenging 10-term incumbent D.J. Haire in District 4;  

- Frederick LaChance III is trying to unseat three-term incumbent Johnny Dawkins in District 5;  

- Joy Marie Potts and Lee Howard are running for the District 6 seat held by Chris Davis, who is opting to run for the state House;  

- political activist Myahtaeyarra “Myah” Warren is challenging incumbent Larry Wright in District 7;  

- downtown businessman Michael Pinkston is running against incumbent Courtney Banks-McLaughlin in District 8;  

- and Deno Hondros and Sonya Massey are challenging incumbent Yvonne Kinston in District 9.  

 Epilogue 

 “This city primary is one for the ages because it has been delayed,” Breece says about the primary and general elections interrupted by the Census and redistricting mapping issues. “This particular city election should have been last year. The short window works for those with name ID, and incumbents have name ID.” 

But it is all but upon us, with the primary scheduled for May 17 and the general election scheduled for July 5 or July 26, depending on the need for a second primary.  

And right now, no matter how you may feel about this mayor or this City Council, they may be sitting in the catbird’s seats. It all comes down to residents who want them in or residents who want them out.

Bill Kirby  Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961. 

Column, Bill Kirby Jr., municipal elections, incumbents, challengers, Fayetteville, City Council

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