Voters In Major NC Cities Electing Mayors

Nov 7, 2017

Voters everywhere from small towns to major cities across North Carolina will select their mayors, city council members, and other local positions on Election Day Tuesday.

Raleigh is holding a rare runoff election for mayor. Incumbent Nancy McFarlane faces challenger Charles Francis after McFarlane failed to get more than 50 percent of the vote in October.

While McFarlane has been a favorite among liberals, the Wake County Democratic Party endorsed Francis, who has accused McFarlane of failing to address adequately affordable housing in the city of 430,000.

The specter of House Bill 2, which was passed by state legislators in response to efforts by Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts to establish an ordinance protecting gay and transgender rights, is a factor in the Raleigh race. The political arm of gay rights group Equality North Carolina announced it would only endorse McFarlane in the runoff when both candidates received its backing in October. The head of Equality NC alleged there was information indicating Francis was too close with local Republicans who supported HB2 or previously opposed gay rights.

Voters in Charlotte will select a new mayor, the city's sixth since 2009. Roberts was the fifth mayor on the list, but her bid for re-election ended when she lost the Democratic primary after her term was beset by controversy over gay and transgender rights and her handling of violent protests following the shooting death of a black man by police in September 2016.

Set to succeed Roberts will be either Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles or City Councilman Kenny Smith. Lyles defeated Roberts in the Democratic primary, while Smith cruised to victory in the Republican primary.

In order to become Charlotte's first Republican mayor since Pat McCrory finished his final term in 2009, Smith would have to overcome a huge gap in voter registration. Democrats outnumber Republicans in Charlotte by more than 2 to 1, although unaffiliated voters surpass Republicans and comprise 30 percent of the electorate.

Smith spent significantly more money than Lyles in the campaign, with his television ads filling local airwaves.

Meanwhile, Durham will elect its first new mayor in more than 15 years after incumbent Bill Bell said he would not run for re-election. 

Mayoral incumbents also are seeking re-election in Asheville, Fayetteville, Greensboro and Wilmington.

Voter turnout is usually between 10 and 15 percent for local elections. Early voting ended Saturday in most communities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.