Local Politics

Polls Close; Durham Precincts See Good Turnout for Mayor's Race

Posted November 6, 2007 6:04 a.m. EST
Updated November 6, 2007 7:34 p.m. EST

— Mayoral candidates, town commissioner races and land transfer taxes are on the ballot Tuesday as voters head to the polls.

In Durham, Mayor Bill Bell and challenger City Councilman Thomas Stith have been engaged in a heated campaign, with Stith repeatedly hammering at Durham image as a crime-ridden city.

  • After the polls close at 7:30 p.m., you can catch the latest election results on WRAL.com. Plus, watch an elections special on WRAL NewsChannel, starting at 9 p.m.

Durham County elections officials are expecting a turnout of about 40,000 residents, or 28 percent of registered voters. That's about double the turnout in the 2005 mayoral election.

The mayor's race could lead to more people voting this year than in any previous local election, said Board of Elections Director Mike Ashe. He attributes the high turnout this year to the "slugfest" between Bell and Stith.

Stith called Bell soft on crime and said Durham needed to move in a new direction. Stith also criticized Bell's involvement in the Duke University lacrosse sexual assault investigation, saying his meetings with police early in the case could increase the city's liability in a pending federal lawsuit.

Bell, who is seeking an unprecedented fourth term as mayor, has fired back at Stith, saying the councilman has been using scare tactics over crime and the Duke case for political gain.

Other communities will also choose a mayor Tuesday. In Chapel Hill, incumbent Kevin Foy faces Kevin Wolff. Wolff challenged Foy in the last election. In Pittsboro, Randolph Voller faces Christopher Bradshaw and Max Cotton. Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton squares off against Chuck Morton and Brian Voyce.

Voters will also head to the polls to tackle tax issues. Six counties – Chatham, Moore, Hoke, Lee, Harnett and Johnston – will see a land transfer tax on the ballot. Voters will have to decide whether to impose a land transfer tax equal to 0.4 percent of the sale price or $400 for every $100,000 whenever property changes hands.

Meanwhile, Cumberland, Robeson and Sampson counties were among 11 counties holding a referendum on whether to adopt a 0.25-cent local sales tax.

Harnett and Johnston counties were among five counties offering voters a choice between the land-transfer and local sales tax. But the counties were allowed to impose only one.

Several other communities in the Triangle are voting for town commissioners, council members and alderman. In those races, it could all come down to the issue of growth. Many towns are seeing rapid growth.

Voters are split between candidates who want to keep it steady and those who want to slow it down.

Since it is not a presidential election year, historically, voter turnout is low, which has some officials concerned that major decisions about growth and taxes made Tuesday could be made by a small group of people. The Oct. 6 municipal elections only drew about 11 percent of Wake County registered voters to the polls.