Voters in Wake County's two largest cities sent a strong message Tuesday by electing a slate of candidates who campaigned on either slowing growth or requiring more of developers.
Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker and newly elected Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht both emerged from the election with friendly councils that could allow them to significantly change the way new growth is paid for in both cities.
Turnout in both cities was low, with 20 percent voting in the Cary mayor's race and less than 16 percent voting in Raleigh's two competitive districts.
Still, the outcomes indicated the unease many Triangle residents feel about the region's rapid growth in an era of traffic congestion, crowded schools and dwindling water supplies.
"I get the impression there's been far, far too much ad-lib growth in Raleigh," said voter Alan Donaldson, who lives in North Raleigh. "You cannot simply let yourself be smothered [by development]."
In Raleigh, Nancy McFarlane defeated incumbent Tommy Craven, while Rodger Koopman led incumbent Jessie Taliaferro. Koopman did not get 50 percent of the vote, and Taliaferro said Tuesday night that she would request a runoff next month.
Koopman, an engineering consultant and Air Force veteran who ran unsuccessfully last year for the Wake County Board of Commissioners, said the election showed Raleigh voters want change.
"It shows people really want politicians in office who vote for their causes [and] not just developers," he said.
Taliaferro said she was disappointed with the low turnout.
"That always makes it difficult," she said. "We knew with three people in the race there could be a runoff."
McFarlane, 51, and Koopman campaigned as staunch allies of Meeker's, promising to follow his lead in substantially raising fees on developers to pay for new roads and parks.
"Impact fees were probably the biggest issue," said McFarlane, a pharmacist and former president of her homeowners association.
Russ Stephenson, who was re-elected to an at-large seat, and council member Thomas Crowder, who ran unopposed, favor similar increases in the city's impact fees.
McFarlane and Koopman also joined Meeker, Stephenson and Crowder in condemning developer John Kane's proposal to have Raleigh and Wake County provide $75 million in public money to build parking decks for North Hills East. Koopman called the idea "white-collar welfare."
The three remaining seats on the council will be filled by incumbents Philip Isley and James West, both of whom ran unopposed this year, and newcomer Mary-Ann Baldwin, who replaces retiring at-large council member Joyce Kekas.
Baldwin, 51, the director of marketing for Stewart Engineering, raised more money than any other candidate this year -- more than $82,000. She drew criticism for receiving significant campaign contributions from people with ties to real-estate and development companies. Craven and Taliaferro drew similar criticism.
Betty Clay, 80, said she voted for Koopman, Meeker and Stephenson because of their "progressive outlook." She said they appeared more open to finding ways to pay for the city's growth.
"There's always room for improvement," she said.
In Cary, voters had a choice between faster-growth and slower-growth candidates in three races. The slower-growth candidates won all three. In the mayor's race, Weinbrecht defeated incumbent Ernie McAlister handily despite being outspent by a 5-to-1 margin.
In council races, incumbent Erv Portman and newcomer Gale Adcock also won easily.
David.Bracken@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4548