Democratic candidates for Chatham Board of Commissioners rode a blue wave last Tuesday, taking three contested seats by at least 12-point margins — with David Delaney (Dist. 3), Katie Kenlan (Dist. 4) and incumbent Franklin Gomez Flores (Dist. 5) each receiving 56% of the total vote.
The margin of victory is reflective of the partisan split across the county, but also shows what candidates described as the Chatham Democratic Party’s effective campaign strategy. That strategy, in the words of Chatham Democratic Party Board Chairperson Liz Guinan was to “get the hell out of the way.”
She said the party was so successful because of relentless volunteers who believed in the platforms of the candidates and took action.
All three winning commissioners candidates watched results roll in from the Chatham Democratic Party’s office in Pittsboro on Election Night, with those attending maintaining a celebratory atmosphere throughout the evening with a clean sweep of Democrats in all countywide races.
In Dist. 3, David Delaney defeated Republican Tom Glendinning in the seat vacated by longtime commissioner Diana Hales. Hales was also in attendance at the watch party on Tuesday and was honored by her colleagues, including Karen Howard, chairperson of the Chatham Commissioners.
“There is no way the four of us will fill the shoes Diana is leaving behind when she leaves this board,” Howard said. “She has done the yeoman’s share of work on many issues in Chatham and she will be sorely missed.”
Howard praised Hales’ commitment to the board and the amount of effort she put into her job. Hales was elected to the office in 2014 and in her eight years of service has advocated for increased focus on agricultural preservation, public-private partnerships and taking action on issues such as climate change and education.
Delaney, 51, will look to continue that legacy as her replacement. He thanked the party for its support of his campaign throughout the process and he said he looks forward to bringing together all of Chatham.
“Elections like this are not won by individual candidates,” Delaney told the Chatham Democrats Tuesday night. “They are won by communities. You all are a vital and central part of this community.”
Glendinning did not respond to requests for comment.
Delaney said he hopes to build on the progress of the current board. His platform focused on ensuring incoming developers abide by social and environmental standards. He also hopes to allocate new funding toward equity-based programming to close achievement gaps, especially as it pertains to broadband access and education.
“I look forward to bringing diverse communities together,” Delaney told the News + Record. “This election has shown us there are still divides across the county and they come in many forms, but we want to be able to be leaders for all Chathamites to find good solutions for everyone.”
The Dist. 4 seat is now occupied by Robert Logan, who opted not to seek a full term in office after he was appointed to the position to replace Jim Crawford, who resigned last year for health reasons. Katie Kenlan, 37, won the seat with 56% of the total vote on Tuesday over Republican Joe Godfrey.
Kenlan has centered her platform on climate issues and smart growth amid rapid development. During her address to Chatham Democrats Tuesday night, she thanked her mother, Elaine Chiosso, executive director of the Haw River Assembly, for allowing her to run in an “inspiring community.”
“It’s because of dedication that we are here tonight,” Kenlan said. “If we can understand and share the worth of Chatham County, treat it with care, respect its natural resources and give Chatham the love it deserves, we will all prosper.”
She said she was proud of the collaborative efforts of her campaign between volunteers and supporters. Kenlan added she was “deeply humbled by the results.”
Godfrey told the News + Record he was also grateful for his supporters and the efforts of his campaign.
“Over the last several months, I have used much of my spare time to immerse myself in all things Chatham County, from infrastructure to county personnel,” Godfrey said. “Even though I was disappointed with the outcome in this election cycle, I am forever grateful for the opportunity to put my name on the ballot and tell residents what my vision for Chatham County is.”
Godfrey said he would continue to keep up in local affairs due to the large challenges facing the county including development, infrastructure needs and housing. He added that he has a deep love for Chatham and trusts its newly elected leaders will do what is best for the county as it continues to evolve.
“As we move forward, let’s put aside any differences for the good of the county, and continue to make Chatham County even better,” Godfrey said.
Kenlan echoed that language Tuesday night, saying she would be a commissioner for all of Chatham and willing to reach across the aisle. She touted herself as a listener and collaborator who will always keep the door open during her time in office.
The sole incumbent on the commissioners ballot will be returned to his seat following an election where he also received 56% of the vote. Democrat Franklin Gomez Flores defeated Republican challenger Peyton Moody, meaning he will continue to represent the southwestern district in the county.
Gomez Flores, 28, is still the youngest commissioner on the board but now becomes one of the veterans of the group. He focused his platform on building the progress of the current board and strategic investments in minority-owned businesses to reduce inequality.
“It’s a great honor to gain the confidence of the community in Chatham County to continue serving,” Gomez Flores told the News + Record Tuesday night.
With the win, this will be the first full term for Gomez Flores on the Board of Commissioners. He previously won a special election over Andy Wilkie in 2020. Wilkie was appointed to the seat after it was vacated by Walter Petty.
In the special election win, Gomez Flores ran as an unaffiliated candidate and narrowly won with 50% of the total vote. He said seeing the broader margin of victory in this election sent a clear message that voters are pleased with the work he and other commissioners are doing to make Chatham better.
“I think we should be focusing on the challenges that come along with the economic development opportunities coming to the county,” he said. “Whether it’s wastewater, schools, etc., all of these are pressing issues.”
Moody did not respond to requests for comment.
Gomez Flores said he will work with everybody to gain the respect of residents across the county. He said being on the board has shown him the power and impact a commissioner has on a local level and he was looking forward to using that impact to help the county.
The commissioners-elect will be officially sworn in by the board at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 5, at the Chatham County Courthouse in Pittsboro. For more information visit www.chathamcountync.gov/government/board-of-commissioners.