Local Politics

Baldwin, Francis appear headed to runoff in Raleigh mayor's race

Posted October 8, 2019 8:59 p.m. EDT
Updated October 9, 2019 1:27 p.m. EDT

— A longtime City Council member and an attorney making his second run at Raleigh mayor appear to be headed to a November runoff election for mayor.

Mary-Ann Baldwin, who served on the City Council for a decade, led with about 38 percent of the vote with nearly all precincts reporting, according to unofficial results. Charles Francis, who took Mayor Nancy McFarlane to a runoff two years ago, was close behind at 31 percent.

Caroline Sullivan, a former Wake County commissioner, was a distant third, at 21 percent. The other three candidates – community activist Zainab Baloch, musician George Knott and attorney Justin Sutton – were all in single digits in terms of support.

Because no candidate got more than 50 percent of the vote in Tuesday's election, Francis can request a runoff as the second-place finisher. Any runoff would be held on Nov. 5.

Both Baldwin and Francis said they look forward to a runoff.

"We planned for a runoff. That's what we anticipated. So, we'll be ready to go," Baldwin said.

"We're looking forward to a race that clarifies the issues head to head with one opponent," Francis said, "so we're absolutely clear what the choice is for the people of Raleigh. It's a choice for the people to run the city as opposed to a few self-proclaimed establishment elites."

Baldwin said she's confident her City Council experience will win out.

"I think experience counts for something," she said. I have a proven track record on the issues people are talking about – affordable housing, transit, caring for the homeless, job creation."

"It’s a critical election," Francis said. "This is the first time in eight years that an incumbent was not running for re-election, so this is a change election. We need to pivot forward to the future and not go back to the policies or politicians of the past that have not served the interest of all of the people well."

McFarlane announced in March that she wouldn't seek a fifth two-year term, creating a scramble to lead North Carolina's second-largest city.

All six candidates expressed similar concerns in recent interviews for WRAL's "On the Record" regarding trying to manage Raleigh's growth, including the rising tax burden on residents and the gentrification that has pushed some longtime residents out of older neighborhoods.

All said the city is woefully behind in building affordable housing for lower-income residents and said city leaders need to reach out to engage more segments of Raleigh.

"We need to change our processes at City Hall so more people are heard," Francis said on the show, adding that he would focus on diversity when appointing people to city boards and commissions.

"[People] are fearful that their kids won't be able to live here, and if they're older, they're fearful that they might not be able to stay here," Baldwin said. "More than anything, people want their voices heard."

City Council losing incumbents

In the races for Raleigh's seven City Council seats, council members David Cox and Corey Branch retained their seats in Districts B and C, respectively. Councilwoman Stef Mendel was soundly defeated by challenger David Knight 69 to 30 percent in District E, and Patrick Buffkin won the open District A seat.

Councilwoman Kay Crowder was far behind challenger Saige Martin in District D, 33 to 47 percent. But because Martin fell short of 50 percent of the vote, Crowder can call for a runoff if she wants.

Likewise, Councilman Russ Stephenson could call for a runoff against Jonathan Melton for the second at-large seat on the council. Melton finished with 23 percent to Stephenson's 19 percent. Councilwoman Nicole Stewart captured the first at-large seat, finishing with 34 percent of the vote in the six-person race. Since the race had two winners, a candidate needed only 25 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.

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