CHAPEL HILL — It's business experience versus political experience in the Chapel Hill Town Council elections today, and it's too close to call.
A weekend poll of 614 likely voters released Monday showed retired corporate finance officer MattCzajkowski edging activist-lawyer Mark Kleinschmidt 45 percent to 44 percent in the mayoral campaign, a spread within the poll's margin of error. Public Policy Polling, a national political survey company based in Raleigh, conducted the poll.
Mayoral candidates Augustus Cho and Kevin Wolff, whose name remains on the ballot despite his announced withdrawal from the race, each polled about 3 percent.
Monday, Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce CEO Aaron Nelson endorsed Czajkowski, who still has two years left on his council term. Former North Carolina National Bank chairman Luther Hodges Jr., UNC Healthcare CEO Bill Roper and the wife and son of the late Chapel Hill philanthropist FrankKenan also support him.
A two-term councilman who gave up his seat to run for mayor, Kleinschmidt has endorsements from four of seven Town Council colleagues; the Sierra Club; the UNC Young Democrats; the statewide Democratic political-action committee Grassroots Farm Team; and the Hank Anderson-Bill Thorpe Breakfast Club, a coalition of African-American leaders in southern Orange County (In the poll, Czajkowski led among black voters overall 56 percent to 30 percent).
Both men have former Chapel Hill mayors on their sidelines: Kevin Foy and Ken Broun for Kleinschmidt; Rosemary Waldorf and Sandy McClamroch for Czajkowski.
And though developer Carol Ann Zinn has rallied a movement of real-estate professionals against Kleinschmidt and the current council, Kleinschmidt also has developers on his side, most notably Meadowmont's Roger Perry and Southern Village's D.R. Bryan, Waldorf's boss at Bryan Properties.
As of the most recent campaign finance report, Czajkowski had outspent Kleinschmidt more than four times over. Kleinschmidt's spending is limited by his participation in the town's public campaign financing program.
Two years ago, Czajkowski, an unaffiliated voter with strong support from Republicans, carried only three precincts but weakened Chapel Hill's liberal establishment, unseating two-term council member Cam Hill, who had run in a bloc with colleagues Foy, Sally Greene, Jim Ward and Bill Strom.
Now Czajkowski and a band of businessmen are trying to knock off Kleinschmidt and incumbents Ed Harrison, Laurin Easthom and Jim Merritt.
Among council candidates, Harrison led the poll with 12 percent of potential votes in the four-seat election, but Czajkowski allies Gene Pease, Matt Pohlman and Jon DeHart all fared favorably. Pease took 11 percent, followed by Easthom with 10 percent, DeHart and Pohlman each with 9 percent and Sierra-backed challenger Penny Rich with 8 percent.
Merritt, who replaced Bill Thorpe last year as the lone African-American on the council, showed 7 percent, and two-time candidate Will Raymond had 3 percent.
"Really anyone is in contention," said Public Policy Polling spokesman Tom Jensen.
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