Raleigh, N.C. — It’s Election Day in North Carolina, and voters in the Triangle area have decisions to make about who will lead their cities and whether they want to spend money on projects for future growth.
In Wake County, voters will decide whether the Wake County Public School System will be able to issue $810 million in bonds to build 16 schools and renovate dozens of others.
Signs popping up on utility poles near several downtown Raleigh schools raised the ire of the North Carolina Republican Party. The signs state "We Hate Teachers NC GOP (888) Art Pope." The phone number links to a voicemail for a mortgage service.
Republican lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory's administration, including Budget Director Art Pope, have taken heat over education spending, eliminating tenure rights for veteran teachers and starting voucher programs for private schools.
"The N.C. GOP feels the signs are despicable, inaccurate and inappropriate,” said Todd Poole, executive director of the state party.
The North Carolina Democratic Party isn't responsible for the signs, spokesman Micah Beasley said, adding that he had no idea who was behind them.
Few voters were around at lunchtime to cast ballots at a polling place in Raleigh's Chavis Park. But that didn't dissuade Doris Burke, a retired educator who volunteers for the Democratic Party and various causes.
She said it can be challenging to rally voters during off-year elections.
"We do phone banking, we knock on doors, we drop off fliers," Burke said. "We work harder or just as hard for an off-year election. We don't give up."
She said her love of the political process keeps her volunteering.
"I want people to come out and vote," Burke said.
In Raleigh, residents can vote on the city's mayor and City Council members. Incumbent Mayor Nancy McFarlane is facing challengers Venita Peyton and Robert Weltzin.
Raleigh voters also will decide whether the city can issue $75 million in bonds to pay to widen numerous streets and install sidewalks and roundabouts.
There also are municipal elections in Cary, Durham, Fayetteville, Henderson, Rocky Mount, Roxboro, Sharpsburg and Erwin.
In Durham's primary, incumbent Mayor Bill Bell faces newcomer Michael Valentine, a business consultant, and Sylvester Williams, a minister.
In Fayetteville, Mayor Tony Chavonne is not seeking re-election. In the running are current Councilwoman Valencia Applewhite, businessman Kirk deViere, retired Goodyear worker Charles Ragan and former Councilmen Nat Robertson and Paul Williams.
The two candidates who win the most support Tuesday will face off Nov. 5.
Early voting was sparse in Wake County, where less than 1 percent of the 645,000 registered voters – or 5,149 – cast early ballots.
Wake County elections officials said municipal elections generally have a 20 to 30 percent voter turnout, but they expected the bond issues facing voters to give an extra bump to Tuesday's turnout.