Candidates differ on marriage and right-to-life issues

Durham municipal election candidates differ on marriage and right-to-life issues

By Harlan Brown
Oct. 8, 2011

Updated Oct. 9, 2011

DURHAM, NC — Candidates in the 2011 municipal primary election have expressed differing viewpoints on the issues of marriage and human rights.

Of the seven city council members (including the mayor) who voted in July of this year to condemn the marriage amendment passed earlier by the North Carolina General Assembly, three are running for reelection. The marriage amendment, which goes to the voters in May of next year, reaffirms the traditional definition of marriage and reads as follows:

Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.

The three incumbents who oppose the amendment and are up for reelection are Mayor William (Bill) Bell and council members Diane Catotti and Eugene Brown. Some of the challengers (see table) also oppose the amendment. Challengers Sylvester Williams (running for mayor) and John Tarantino and Victoria Peterson (both running for city council) have taken a stand in favor of the amendment.

On the right-to-life issue, mayoral candidates Sylvester Williams and Ralph McKinney say that they believe that the right to life begins at conception (using the traditional definition, fertilization, rather than the more recent definition, implantation). I queried all of the candidates, but not all have responded to the question (see table).

According to the Durham County Board of Elections website, Durham's municipal primary election is on Tuesday, Oct. 11, from 6:30 AM - 7:30 PM. Early voting ended today at 1:00 p.m.

The date of the general election is on Tuesday, Nov. 8, with early voting beginning Thursday, Oct. 20, at 9 a.m. or as soon as possible after the primary when ballots are available. According to the Durham County Board of Elections website, early voting (One Stop No Excuse Absentee Voting) will be held at the following locations:

  • Board of Elections Office at 706 W. Corporation St. Durham, NC 27701
  • North Regional Library at 221 Milton Rd. Durham, NC 27712
  • South Regional Library at 4505 S. Alston Ave. Durham, NC 27713
Candidate When right to life begins Marriage amendment Website and email Phone (919)
Mayor (Vote for one)
Sylvester Williams Conception (fertilization) For; 596-2682
Ralph Madison McKinney, Jr. Conception (fertilization) Against1 no website; no email 471-6696
William V. (Bill) Bell At birth Against; 544-5597
Joe W. Bowser When heartbeat begins Undecided,; 493-1229
City Council (Vote for up to three)
John Tarantino "I am pro-life" For; 519-4727
Steve Schewel (no reply) Against; 286-0116
Victoria Peterson Conception (fertilization) For; 949-3867
Donald Hughes At birth Against; 410-7721
Diane Catotti "I am pro-choice" Against; 490-0984
Eugene A. Brown (no reply) Against; 688-9314
Solomon Burnette See footnote2 Abstain3; 638-6923
  1. Re the city council's vote in July condemning the marriage amendment, McKinney added that they "should not have voted on it."
  2. Burnette: "Life is precious. Everyone's choice takes consideration."
  3. Burnette: "My upbringing, faith, and ideology place me squarely within the exclusive endorsement of heterosexual union. We must also make sure that no one's civil liberties are infringed upon. If asked to vote on this position, I would probably abstain so as not to offend many friends."

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