By Virginia Bridges
Durham County commissioners appointed former board member Phil Cousin Monday night to fill Joe Bowser’s vacated seat.
Commissioner Chair Michael Page said before the 4-0 vote that from the start, he and others on the board wanted someone who could hit the ground running in the term that expires in December.
Page, who is running for re-election along with three other incumbents, also said commissioners didn’t want to influence the November election. "The consensus of this board is that we would move toward a commissioner that would leave the race totally open in the fall,” he said.
The vote also marks the second time commissioners ignored the Durham County Democratic Party’s recommendation to fill a vacated seat. The Democratic Party recommended Fred Foster, the second highest vote getter in the 14-person May Democratic primary for five seats on the board.
In November, the five Democratic primary winners – incumbent commissioners Page, Ellen Reckhow and Brenda Howerton, along with Foster, and Wendy Jacobs – will face at least one independent contender, Omar Beasley.
After the vote, Foster said commissioners allowed Durham County Republicans to set an agenda that allowed them to pick a replacement that wouldn’t be competition come November. The Durham County Republican Party released a 21-year-old document earlier this month saying Foster was pushed to resign from the local Department of Social Services more than two decages ago after he worked another job on county time and sent personal mail through the county system.
“I think that’s what Republicans have given them was a way out, and they are using it,” Foster said.