Meeker keeps his job as Raleigh mayor

Staff WritersOctober 7, 2009 

— Mayor Charles Meeker was re-elected to his fifth consecutive term Tuesday, while one of his past political rivals, John Odom, made his way back onto the City Council after a six-year absence.

The only upset in Tuesday's nonpartisan city elections came when Odom, a Republican small-business owner, toppled incumbent Rodger Koopman in DistrictB. Odom garnered support from 59percent of the 6,412 people that voted in the northeast Raleigh district.

Odom's no stranger to the council, having spent five terms on it before unsuccessfully trying to unseat Meeker, a Democratic lawyer, in the city's 2003 mayoral election.

Odom, 62, will be the only Republican on the council, and he said he plans to focus on how, and where, money gets spent at city hall.

"We're a billion dollars in debt, and no one knows where the money went," Odom said.

Also joining the council will be Bonner Gaylord, 31, the general manager of the North Hills development and a planning commission member. Gaylord will be taking over the District E seat in northwest Raleigh being vacated by Philip Isley, a Raleigh lawyer who had been the council's lone Republican. Isley decided not to run again.

Gaylord, who isn't affiliated with a political party, faced a fellow member of the city's planning committee in the race, Waheed Haq, 52. Gaylord ended up with 76percent of the vote.

"We've got a lot to accomplish in the city council," Gaylord said, including working on new building codes for the city. "That's really going to guide the way the city grows."

In West Raleigh's DistrictD, architect Thomas Crowder, 53, easily beat challenger Ted Van Dyk, 48, also an architect. Crowder received 68percent of the vote.

In District C, which represents Southeast Raleigh, James West, a 65-year-old Democrat, easily won his sixth term with 84 percent of the vote over challenger Charles "Chuck" Reisinger, 34, who jumped into the race initially just to make sure West had competition.

Incumbents Mary-Ann Baldwin, 52, and Russ Stephenson, 53, were re-elected as the council-at-large representatives over two much-younger candidates.

In North Raleigh's DistrictA, incumbent Nancy McFarlane, 53, was unopposed and received 94 percent of the vote.

Milestone for Meeker

Tuesday's win tied Meeker, 59, with fellow Democrat Avery C. Upchurch as the mayor with the longest consecutive run in office in Raleigh history.

"Raleigh voters have been very kind to me over the years, and they were again tonight," Meeker said.

One of Meeker's opponents, Larry Hudson II, 30, received 29 percent of the total vote. Mark Enloe, 47, got 7 percent, and Gregg Kunz, 48, the third challenger, received 3 percent of vote. All in all, the three challengers ended up with 38percent of the total vote in the mayor's race. The dent in Meeker's support may be a sign that some residents are seeking a change.

Hudson, 30, a recruiter with a local construction staffing firm who hadn't voted in city elections beforehand, ran to attention to issues outside the Beltline.

"To be the first election that I've ever done and to come up with the third of the vote, I think that's excellent," Hudson said. "I wish we could have pulled it out, though. We'll be running again."

Eleven percent of eligible voters in Raleigh turned out for Tuesday's election.

In the at-large race, Baldwin received 35 percent of the vote Tuesday and Stephenson got 33 percent.

Champ Claris, a 32-year-old real estate broker who criticized the spending priorities of the current council and promised to be more fiscally conservative, came in third in the at-large race with 20 percent.

Challenger Lee Sartain, 28, who works for N.C. State's Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, received 8 percent. He campaigned promising to emphasize economic development and take a more active role in expanding the city's public transportation network.

The dramatic contest

The liveliest race during the campaign was in District D, where Crowder and Van Dyk both ran aggressive campaigns.

Crowder has represented the district since 2003. He touted his ability to build consensus and engage and protect neighborhoods. He has led the council's recent efforts to more closely monitor rental properties and to make developers pay more of the cost of growth.

Van Dyk was highly critical of Crowder's tenure on council, saying he frequently stirred up unnecessary discontent and circumvented the public process to suit his own objectives.

In District B, Koopman, 49, a Democrat and director of a software development company, held the seat for the past two years. He argued during the campaign that the predominantly progressive council had worked hard to correct costly mistakes made by Odom and his conservative colleagues in the 1990s. Meanwhile, Odom said Koopman represented irresponsible taxing and spending.

Koopman said he plans on staying involved with what happens at city hall.

"Clearly it's a privilege to serve," Koopman said. "I was hoping to do it again."

sarah.ovaska@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4622

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