Nate Baker turns away real estate developer campaign donations, endorsed by two Durham PACs

Nate Baker has promised to turn away campaign donations from real estate developers in his campaign for Durham City Council.

Baker believes that there should be a balance between developers and the City Council which controls zoning and development that Durham has failed to maintain. 

“I think it’s inappropriate, at best unethical, and corrupting to accept political donations from the very industry that you’re asking the public to put you in a position to regulate,” he said. 

However, Baker said that he does have positive relationships with some developers. In a meeting with the Association of Realtors, he said that the first question he was asked was whether or not he would accept their donation, to which he declined.

“It’s incumbent upon us to be able to sometimes work collaboratively,” he said, “but there should always be some amount of tensions there because we also need to make sure that we are holding them accountable to providing their fair share of goods.”

He said that candidate Sherri Zann Rosenthal is also turning away donations from real estate developers and that real estate is a powerful industry that carries more weight than PACs. 

Both Rosenthal and Baker have also been endorsed by the Durham hub of the Sunrise Movement which is led by volunteers and focuses on promoting environmental responsibility and climate change. These are issues prominent in Baker’s platform and contributed to the Movement’s decision to endorse him.

Sunrise Movement was nationally founded in 2019 and is a new political force in Durham. Their policy specifically revolves around the Green New Deal. Implementation of the Deal locally involves measures to “intervene Duke Energy’s Carbon Plan proceedings,” according to Daksh Arora, former core team member of Sunrise Movement Durham.

Arora said that Baker has been involved with the Sunrise Movement for over two years and has come to protests against Duke Energy. Baker’s environmental stances reflect the Green New Deal and the policies of the Sunrise Movement.

“He believes in a strong labor movement and that we should uplift every part of the community and that it doesn’t matter which ZIP code they are from,” Arora said, “Those policy platforms resonated with people in our hub.”

Other issues which are prominent in Baker’s platform which reflect policies of the Sunrise Movement are equity in providing benefits in clean new energy to underrepresented groups and affordable housing.

Arora said the selection process for endorsing candidates is transparent and that the candidates selected had the most votes from members of the Durham hub.

Khalilah Karim and Rosenthal are the only other City Council candidates endorsed by the hub. 

The other Durham PAC that has chosen to endorse Baker is the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People. This PAC focuses on eliminating racial discrimination in both public and private sectors. 

Cassandra Stokes, political chair of the Committee, said that The Committee supports candidates with a holistic approach. She also said that the Committee believes that most candidates are qualified based on their education and skills, yet Nate Baker stood out because he is the only candidate with a solid background in city planning and zoning.

Issues of concern to the Committee this year were livable wages and affordable housing.

“I think that was really important for us that affordable housing was high priority when candidates went through our endorsement process,” she said, “I think Nate’s background and his work within the community definitely speaks to that.” 

Stokes believes that Baker’s ability to break down and understand ordinances and zoning plans and his Durham roots will benefit the Council. 

The other candidates endorsed by the Committee are Monique Holsey-Hyman and Sheila Huggins. 

“We have picked a whole slate of candidates where each candidate brings something different,” she said, “But what I think people want to  see this year, specifically in this municipal election is that individuals can agree to disagree.”