RALEIGH, N.C. — Mayor's races topped the list of the most hotly contested races and sparked voter turnout on Election Day.
Voters in Durham and Fayetteville re-elected their mayors to second terms, while Cary voters chose a new leader in a heated runoff.
Cary Elects McAlister Mayor; Raleigh City Council Seats Decided In Runoff
With 25 percent voter turnout, Cary voters elected Ernie McAlister as the town's next mayor.
"I think the mandate for change came four weeks ago in the preliminary (election) and over the past four weeks folks have been deciding who they wanted to lead that change. With today's vote, that was been made clear," McAlister said.
The retired banker beat out opponent and town councilmember Julie Robison in a race that turned heated days ago.
Robison asked the Board of Elections to investigate the campaign of her rival, questioning his fund-raising. McAlister said a supporter of his campaign just made a mistake. The board investigated and found no laws were broken.
McAlister ran on a platform of using his banking experience to keep taxes low.
Former Cary Mayor Koka Booth said McAlister will have his work cut out for him keeping the town's finances in check.
"With the economy the way it is and the way we've handled our situation here, I think that we really need to be careful about how we spend our money," he said.
With the challenge of an election behind him, McAlister said it is time to focus and follow up on the people's mandate.
"We're going to focus on finances, we're going to focus on fiscal responsibility and recognizing that the things that made out town great are worth paying attention to," he said.
Even though Robison lost the mayor's race, she will still have a say in Cary town government.
"When I woke up this morning I was the at-large representative on the Cary Town Council. And tomorrow when I wake up, I will be the at-large representative on the Cary Town Council. It's an honor and privilege for me," she said following her mayoral defeat.
Robison has two years left on the town council. That means she will work with McAlister. Robison said she hopes they can set aside their differences, but admitted it will take time because of the rough campaign.
In Raleigh, two council races were also decided. In District B, planning commission member Jessie Taliaferro beat out disabled advocate Karen Moye-Stallings. In District D, planning commission member Thomas Crowder upset incumbent Benson Kirkman.
Durham Voters Re-Elect Mayor, Approve Bonds
Turnout was about 25 percent in Durham where voters relected incumbent Mayor Bill Bell. The incumbent held a big lead Tuesday to win a second two-year term over challenger Jonathan Alston.
Bell said he will continue to focus on reducing crime. Downtown growth will also be a priority to the city's future.
"If you look around the region five to 10 years from now, and if you look at the downtowns in Raleigh, Cary, Chapel Hill and Durham, there's no question in my mind that downtown Durham is where people want to be," Bell said. "We are focusing on making that a destination point 24 hours a day, seven days a week where people will want to live there, work there and come there for quality entertainment."
Two newcomers -- Diane Diane Catotti and Eugene Brown -- will join Bell on the City Council. Brown has been vocal in his criticism of city manager Marcia Conner. The new City Council will be sworn in to office on Dec. 1.
Durham voters also overwhelmingly approved
a $105 million bond
that would help build two more schools and renovate two dozen others; $4.7 million to build a new library; $8.3 million for improvements at Durham Technical Community College and $5.2 million to complete the BioQuest exhibit at the Museum of Life and Science.
Pitts Wins Second Term In Fayetteville
In Fayetteville, incumbent Marshall Pitts Jr. won easily over real estate agent Robert Anderson for a second term.
"This is a clear symbol that Fayetteville wants to be a more progressive city," Pitts said Tuesday night.
Pitts must deal with proposed annexation of some 43,000 Cumberland County residents.
With the election won, Pitts must now he must deal with issues like annexation. Soon, 43,00 people could become instant residents of the city.
Many are expected to be unhappy with city leaders right from the start, perhaps making it the first big test of Pitts' second term.
"It's a big challenge," he said. "You're talking about a huge section of people and I think it's going to take a lot of information, a lot of meetings to really make them feel comfortable being brought into the process if we do decide to annex."
Pitts said he wants to focus his attention on economic development.
In his first election, Pitts' slogan was "Change Is Coming." This time he said it is "Change Is Now."
More than 300 races in the area were decided Tuesday. A number of mayoral races were uncontested.