Local Politics

Polls Close; Turnout Light in Local Elections

Posted October 9, 2007 5:56 a.m. EDT
Updated October 9, 2007 9:01 p.m. EDT

— Mayoral, city council and school board seats were on the ballot Tuesday in precincts ib many parts of the Triangle, not to mention multimillion-dollar bonds issues for parks, open space and libraries.

But registered voters weren't drawn to the polls in large numbers. They reported no or short lines as they cast their votes in unseasonably warm weather.

Polls closed at 7:30 p.m. The Wake County Board of Elections reported voter turnout at 11 percent.

In Cary, the pace of growth is one of the biggest issues in the mayor's race. Incumbent Ernie McAlister said growth drives what he calledCary's healthy economy.

"I think we have proven that growth pays its way as folks move here and begin to pay taxes and that drives developer investment," he said.

Challenger Harold Weinbrecht disagreed, calling for a change in leadership.

"I think now we're not doing an adequate job of managing our growth, providing adequate road capacity and adequate school seating," he said.


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Three Cary Town Council seats were also up for grabs. Growth, roads and the future of a proposed performing arts center were major topics at a debate last week.

Cary voters saw a new ballot when they voted Tuesday. The town is the first in the state to hold "instant runoff" voting.

In the new arrangement, voters marked their first, second and third choices on their ballots. In the event no one got a majority vote, the information allows for an "instant runoff" between the top two vote-getters. Election officials said Cary will save more than $60,000 by eliminating the traditional runoff.

In Raleigh, Mayor Charles Meeker and three members of the City Council ran unopposed. Four council seats were up for grabs. There was also an $88 million referendum for parks and greenway projects for voters to consider.

"It will buy several acres of land, two community centers including one aquatics facility," Meeker said. "(It) will also build the city's share of the greenways from Falls Lake to the Johnston County line over 13 miles of the Neuse River. It's a great issue."

The Raleigh City Council hasn't determined if the bond would be paid for with a property tax increase or in another way.

Two of the five seats on the Wake County school board were up for grabs. In central Raleigh, District 6 pitted incumbent Beverley Clark against three opponents. In Northern Wake's District 3, three candidates ran for the seat vacated by Carol Parker.

Three school bond issues were on the ballot – $45 million for public libraries, $50 million to preserve open spaces by buying undeveloped land and $92 million in bonds for Wake Tech Community College. Approving all three would mean a property tax increase of about 2.25 cents per $100 of assessed value, based on current valuations. A property revaluation is in the works.

"Wake Tech is the best economic tool that we have. The availability of an educated workforce is the main reason they're coming here," said Wake County Commissioner Tony Gurley.

In Durham, 10 candidates were vying for three at-large seats. Tuesday's primary was intended to narrow the field to six candidates for the November election. The Durham mayor's race will also be on the November ballot.

In Fayetteville, six City Council seats were contested in a primary.