Hongbin Gu, Karen Stegman, Allen Buansi and Rachel Schaevitz will fill four vacant seats on Chapel Hill Town Council — and all were endorsed by the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Liveable Town (CHALT).
Incumbents Maria Palmer and Ed Harrison both lost their seats, alongside newcomer Carl Schuler.
According to unofficial results from the Orange County Board of Elections, Hongbin Gu won approximately 20 percent of the vote — the highest percentage of any of the candidates. After facing discrimination during her campaign, Gu said the support of the Chinese-American community has amazed her.
“Since last year’s election, a lot have felt frustrated, depressed, put in fear of all the rhetorics we hear,” Gu said. “I think today we truly feel we are part of this country. We are part of this community. We are all Americans. From this campaign, we can see that.”
During his election-night victory speech at R&R Grill, Allen Buansi said his goal from the very first day of his campaign was to incorporate more of the community into the town’s decision-making process. His door will be open to anyone and everyone, he said.
“I want to make sure that our historically underrepresented groups are at the table and I want to make sure our young people are at the table and are armed with the skills that they need for effective self-advocacy and for effective civic engagement,” Buansi said.
At Mediterranean Deli, the crowd gathered for Rachel Schaevitz’s election party featured friends, family and members of CHALT. Tom Henkel, a co-founder and current treasurer for CHALT, said with the election of the four CHALT-endorsed candidates, the council will be more unified now that they’ve “cleaned house."
“Pam has been unable to do what she wanted to do with the city council. And it’s because the incumbents, people who were still there, were fighting her virtually all the way,” Henkel said. “We feel that the mayor will have a council now that will support things she wants to do.”
In light of her win, Schaevitz said she is thrilled that so many of the council members are aligned on town issues and will be able to work quickly to put decisions into action.
Maria Palmer, who has served on the council since 2013, said she was very sad for the town of Chapel Hill after learning of her loss.
“I have hope because I feel that some good people were elected, they are good people with good intentions,” she said. “I have faith that they will learn how hard it is to work on all the priorities that our citizens have while fighting for social justice and I will continue fighting for the people I represent, many of who couldn’t vote.”
Ed Harrison, Karen Stegman and Carl Schuler could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.
A team of four writers, including Doug Dubrowski, Claire Wilmschen, Alexandra Gailey and Cole Kordus were stationed around Chapel Hill and contributed reporting.
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