Cary, N.C. — One day after becoming Cary’s mayor-elect, Harold Weinbrecht said he overcame “a lot of money and a lot of power and a lot of negative campaigning” to win.
Weinbrecht, a former Cary town councilman, beat out incumbent Mayor Ernie McAlister by 16 percentage points Tuesday night.
Noting that he was out-spent 6-to-1, Weinbrecht thanked his supporters and attributed the win to grassroots efforts.
“It was pretty incredible,” he said. “It shows the people of Cary are concerned about the issues and willing to get out there and vote and willing to get out and get their neighbors to vote.”
Growth was one of the major issues surrounding Cary’s mayoral election Tuesday, and Weinbrecht said residents couldn’t stop talking about it. Census results show Cary is Wake County's fastest growing town.
Cary political watchers said there's a process to growth that’s repeated in the town: A development comes up, neighbors oppose it, the town approves it anyway and the controversy eventually fades.
But opponents of one specific project didn't disappear. They went straight to the polls.
Weinbrecht said he promises to embrace what he calls a balanced approach to growth.
“They were mostly concerned that big projects were being approved that harmed their neighborhoods, and they didn’t really have a voice in the matter,” Weinbrecht said.
One of those projects was at the northeast corner of High House and Davis Drive. It called for offices, shops and condos. Opponents said the area was already too congested.
The council narrowly approved the plan, with support from McAlister. Neighbors took their revenge at the polls. In four precincts near High House and Davis Drive Weinbrecht saw overwhelming support of 70 percent or more.
Don Hyatt runs CaryPolitics.org, which tracks town council issues. He said residents weren’t just upset about growth but also how their input was ignored.
“They’re trying to tell the council, ‘Can you hear us now?’” Hyatt laughed. “The people in the neighborhood of High House and Davis Drive were extremely energized.”
McAlister's campaign attacked Weinbrecht on spending issues. The mayor acknowledged those points took a backseat to growth.
“If you have folks where that’s the only thing important to then, then nothing else is going to matter,” McAlister said.
What matters to some now is whether Weinbrecht will keep his campaign promise on growth.
“If it’s going to create a problem with existing neighborhoods, then I’ll have a difficult time approving the project,” he said.
Some have compared Weinbrecht to former Cary Mayor Glen Lang, who made strides in slowing the town’s growth. While some like Lang’s stance on growth, others accused him of having an abrasive style.
“We do have a lot of philosophical beliefs that are similar, but the personalities and the way we approach issues are totally different,” Weinbrecht said. “And the way we approach people may be different.”
As he prepares to take over Cary’s top seat, Weinbrecht said his first order of business will be to assess where the town is and where it needs to go.
“I believe we need to work on providing adequate infrastructure, and that may mean changing ordinances and putting things in place that will protect certain neighborhoods and certain things from overwhelming neighborhoods,” he said.
In other Cary election news, Erv Portman was named the winner in the Cary Town Council At-Large race after he drew 69 percent of the vote. Gale Adcock was elected to Cary’s District D seat with 54 percent of the vote.
The District B race offered the state the first chance to experiment with an "instant runoff."
Incumbent Nels Roseland lagged behind challengers Don Frantz and Vickie Maxwell, who had 39 percent and 34 percent of the vote, respectively.
In the coming days, election officials will review the ballots cast for Roseland, because he was third, to see which of the other candidates were the second choice of his voters. The votes will then be assigned to either Frantz or Maxwell, and a winner will be declared.