January 31, 2022 6:00am

Members Put Allam, Foushee Ahead of the Pack in Durham’s Crowded District 6 Race

Clay Aiken’s American Idol fame doesn’t seem to be getting him too far.

Photo of Leigh Tauss
Durham, NC Correspondent

Durham voters will decide which Democrat will represent North Carolina's 6th Congressional District in the coming months. The district is poised to be one of, if not the most progressive seat in the state—packing in progressive voters from Chapel Hill, Durham, and a section of Wake County—and essentially ensuring the race will be decided in the primary.

The seat was long held by Representative David Price, who announced his plan to retire last year. That makes it one of the only open left-leaning districts for Democrats to run, as the heavily gerrymandered Congressional map drawn by Republicans contains only three reliably blue districts.

Local politicians State Senator Wiley Nickel, State Senator Valerie Foushee, and Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam are gunning for the seat, as is American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken, who instantly garnered national attention after jumping in the race. There's also a handful of political rookies hoping to gain a foothold—Nathan Click, Ashley Ward, and Richard L. Watkins.

The election is still months away (or more, depending on the outcome of the ongoing gerrymandering court battle) and despite a crowded field, two candidates seem to be leading the pack both in terms of name recognition and favorability.

Once again, thank you kindly to the folks who took the time to fill out this survey. While it's a small sample size—which I’m hoping will grow over the months to come—it says a lot about what kind of progressive Durham residents hope to send to Washington, D.C.

This month, I asked members who would get their vote if the election were held tomorrow. Nida Allam led the pack, with 30 percent of members supporting her. If elected, she'd not only be the youngest woman in Congress (she's 28; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was 29 when she won election in 2018) but also the first Muslim ever elected to Congress from a Southern state.

Valerie Foushee garnered the second-most votes from members, at 22 percent. The Foushee name is a big one in Orange County politics, and the state's establishment Democrats seem to be coalescing early around the state senator.

However, 26 percent of members responded that they did not know or were not sure who they would support in the race. Wiley Nickel, who worked in President Barack Obama's administration, came up a distant third, with 9 percent of members supporting him. Nickel may not have the same name recognition as Allam and Foushee, but he has amassed a $515,000 war chest for his campaign, making him a formidable opponent.

Surprisingly, few members supported Clay Aiken despite him having the most name recognition entering the race. Perhaps Democrats don't want a celebrity representing them on Capitol Hill, even if he does check some progressive boxes (he'd be North Carolina's first openly gay congressman if elected). Aiken received 4 percent of votes, along with lesser-known candidates Ashley Ward and Richard L. Watkins. No one picked Nathan Click.

For my second question, I asked voters to rank the candidates based on familiarity. Here, Allam and Foushee once again led the pack. Coasting on his former idol fame, Aiken came up third followed by Nickel and the remaining candidates.

Nickel may have the funds to campaign aggressively, but unless he starts spending his cash on campaign ads, he'll have a lot of ground to cover if he wants to catch up with Allam and Foushee.

Rounding out this month's poll, I asked members how they felt about dry January.

While about a quarter of you didn't seem to know what dry January is (it's when you go on a voluntary hiatus from alcohol as a cleanse following a lush holiday season) the majority of you responded "During a pandemic? Heck no." Another quarter of voters felt it was a healthy way to start the year, while 8 percent of members felt it was selfish during a time when bars and restaurants are still recovering from the pandemic. Just one person said they are always dry.

Sometimes it's good to be in the minority.


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