Yard signs dot the ground in downtown Raleigh, an area where candidates must get out the vote to have any chance of winning their election. (Photo courtesy of Jacob Smith)
*In no way is this article favorable to one candidate or aim to endorse a candidate over others.*
You may not have known it, but the City of Raleigh is having an important election soon — the election of a new mayor. Raleigh holds municipal elections every two off years for mayoral and city council offices, but this year is special because the current mayor is retiring.
Nancy McFarlane is the incumbent mayor of Raleigh, and is currently in her fourth term. First elected to the city council in 2007, McFarlane ran for mayor of Raleigh in 2011 and won. McFarlane is self described Independent, but was endorsed by local Democratic groups when she previously ran.
McFarlane’s tenure as mayor has been rocky as there’s been conflicts between her and the city council regarding restrictions on Airbnb rentals, allowing electric scooters downtown, and even a current mayoral candidate. “The Mayor sets the tone of the council. My experience has been that the most important work isn’t always about specific projects or programs, but cultivating relationships and building alliances,” said an aid to Mayor Nancy McFarlane when asked in an email what she thought of the race.
When Mayor McFarlane announced that she wasn’t running for a fifth term, candidates jumped at the chance to run for the mayor’s seat. At the moment, there are three major candidates who have a shot at actually winning the election.
First is Mary Ann Baldwin. A former city council member and former RaleighGo board member, Baldwin is no outsider to politics. Baldwin is focusing her campaign on affordable housing, transportation, homelessness, and treating city staff better. “I am running for Raleigh Mayor because I want to ensure that all our young people have the same opportunities that my daughter had to be exposed to the arts, education, recreation — and ultimately find her passion,” said Baldwin in an email to the Mycenaean. She has been endorsed by Wake county commissioner Sig Hutchinson and the Raleigh Realtors Association.
The conflicts between the mayor and council may not be fixed if Baldwin wins. In June of 2018, the Raleigh City Council barely voted to remove Baldwin from her post as a RaleighGo board member. Some might question her ability to work with the council that ousted her not so long ago.
Another candidate voters will see on their ballot is Caroline Sullivan. A former Wake County commissioner, a cancer survivor, and the executive director for a non-profit that promotes career development tools for young people, Sullivan definitely has the experience to lead Raleigh. Sullivan’s campaign is focused on affordable housing, fostering the arts, and building up Dix park. “One of my main focuses will be to make sure Raleigh is a city that you will want to stay in — addressing the housing affordability crisis, building more transit options for residents who cannot or choose not to drive, promoting arts, culture and quality of life, and making sure Raleigh grows in an environmentally sustainable and resilient way,” said Sullivan in an email to the Mycenaean.
Sullivan is endorsed by Mayor Nancy McFarlane and Equality NC.
Sullivan lost her county commissioner seat in 2017 after complications with redistricting. She attempted to run in a different district after the General Assembly changed the map of county commissioner seats, but their map was struck down in courts meaning Sullivan would have to run for a different seat. Unfortunately for her, filing had already ended leaving her with no seat to run for ending her career as a county commissioner.
Finally there’s to Charles Francis. Francis is an attorney who ran for mayor in 2017, a former member of the board of the Planned Parenthood of the Triad, and former vice chair of Wake County Democratic Party. When Francis ran in 2017 against McFarlane, Francis got 37 percent of the vote, much of which came from heavily African-American neighborhoods that he’ll have to win again if he wants any shot at winning. He’s focusing his campaign on affordable housing, mental health, and creating a greener Raleigh.
Francis has had some credibility issues. After losing his 2017 bid for mayor, two contractors say that he never paid them the 9,000 dollars he owes. The two contractors were told that they would be paid to advertise Francis through robocalls and newspaper ads, but after the election they never heard from Francis. Francis’s campaign has said that there was a misunderstanding in finances and that they were working it out.
The election is October 8 and early voting starts September 18. This race really seems to be anyone’s game. Whether it’s Mary Ann Baldwin, Caroline Sullivan, or Charles Francis please get out and vote. Make sure to register to vote and find your polling place. Leading the great city is an important role, so make your voice heard and vote on who would you think would lead the best.