Local Politics

Raleigh mayor bemoans partisan tone of election

Posted October 16, 2017 2:11 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 9:55 a.m. EDT

— Mayor Nancy McFarlane said Monday that she will gladly put her record leading Raleigh up against anything offered by mayoral candidate Charles Francis.

Francis on Sunday called for a runoff in the race after no one obtained a majority vote in the three-person election last Tuesday.

McFarlane finished with 48.5 percent of the 52,449 votes cast, while Francis garnered 36.7 percent and Paul Fitts had 14.8 percent.

"This race provides a clear choice between solutions and partisanship and will demonstrate that Raleigh voters value a record of accomplishment over a political label," McFarlane said during a news conference.

She cited a list of accomplishments during her tenure, including the planning for the 300-acre Dix Park near downtown, record tourism, the development of Union Station as a transit hub, expanded greenways and $800 million in private investment in the city.

"My record speaks for itself. The best indicator of future success is past performance," she said. "Mr. Francis has been long on misleading rhetoric and championing political labels while offering nothing concrete in detail."

McFarlane rebutted Francis' claims that Raleigh isn't doing enough to provide affordable housing, noting that a dedicated portion of the city's property taxes will generate at least $60 million over the next decade to developing housing for low-income and fixed-income residents.

Francis argues that a property tax is the wrong approach, and the city should use tax credits to encourage developers to provide affordable housing. But McFarlane said Raleigh already participates in two tax credit programs, adding that federal tax cuts have made the programs less attractive to developers.

Francis said the fact that McFarlane couldn't win last week shows general dissatisfaction with her leadership, especially in communities that have been left behind amid Raleigh's growth. McFarlane said it's hard to draw conclusions from the results of a three-person race and said she has tried to visit neighborhoods through the city during her six years as mayor and to work on programs that benefit all of Raleigh.

"With our successes come challenges, and we are actively addressing them so that Raleigh knows a shared prosperity," she said.

The mayor welcomed Francis' challenge to a debate before the Nov. 7 runoff, a contest she continues to say will be divisive for a city that prides itself on nonpartisan governance.

"We have always worked very well in a nonpartisan manner, and that's why we've been able to accomplish so much. We don't always totally agree on everything, but we have been able to set partisanship aside and focus on what's best for the city," McFarlane said.

"It's disheartening to see that Washington, D.C.-style partisanship being inserted into our local elections," she added.

Francis has the backing of the Wake County Democratic Party and has declared himself the only Democrat in the mayoral race. McFarlane is unaffiliated.

Early voting for the runoff starts Thursday.

Raleigh's last mayoral runoff was in 2001 when Charles Meeker narrowly defeated incumbent Paul Coble. Meeker then went on to serve five terms.