With Mayor Nancy McFarlane not seeking re-election, Raleigh will have its first new mayor in eight years.
All eight seats on the City Council, including the mayor’s, will be up for grabs this fall. While filing starts in July, speculation has already begun on who might run for the top spot. The election is Oct. 8.
Former mayoral candidate and Raleigh attorney Charles Francis confirmed he will run again — and would have regardless of what McFarlane decided.
“I look forward to a vigorous campaign that is focused on how we can make city government work better for everyone,” he said. “And how we can ensure that Raleigh grows, not just the buildings and population, but for the benefit of the people who live here.”
Residents need improved access to housing, more business opportunities, more transit opportunities and a city government “that is fair and accessible” to everyone, Francis said.
Several council members said they’re focusing on re-election to their current seats.
“My phone has been blowing up about that,” said council member Kay Crowder, who represents District D. “It has never been my intention to run for mayor. I know people have pushed out that thought that that’s what I wanted to do, but, to be honest with you, I love representing my district.”
Council members Stef Mendell and Nicole Stewart, first-term members in District E and one of two at-large seats respectively, also said they are not interested in running for mayor.
Russ Stephenson, who has served on the council since 2005, also plans to focus on his at-large seat. Being mayor would take more time than he could give it, he said.
McFarlane’s announcement doesn’t change any plans for Corey Branch, who previously said he intended to run for re-election.
Former Wake County Commissioner John Burns doesn’t plan to run for the mayor’s seat or any council seat. “I am very happy seeing my kids and my wife and helping to build Forrest Firm into a great law firm,” he said in text message. “There will be excellent candidates in every district and for mayor.”
Bonner Gaylord, who served on the Raleigh City Council for eight years before losing his re-election bid in 2017, said he is enjoying his time with his family and is not interested in running.
“I don’t know how I could put them through the situation with serving right now the way it is,” he said.
“Unfortunately, [the council] doesn’t seem like it is a healthy place right now and I wouldn’t want to put my family through that,” he said.
Former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker and his son, David Meeker, a local business owner, both said they weren’t interested in running for any City Council seat.
One of the first names mentioned in political circles is former City Council member Mary-Ann Baldwin.
“I fully expected the mayor to run again, and I’m disappointed she will be leaving us,” she said. “Now I have to give some heartfelt thought to what I am going to do next.”
Zainab Baloch, who ran in 2017 for one of the at-large seats, confirmed she will run for the council, but wouldn’t say for which seat.
“I want to thank Mayor McFarlane for her leadership,” she said in a written statement. “I am so excited and inspired for the torch to be passed to a new generation, ready and able to lead Raleigh into the future. I look forward to the 2019 elections and working together to #ReclaimRaleigh.”
Caroline Sullivan, a former Wake County commissioner and current executive director of the North Carolina Business Committee for Education, is another name that has come up in discussions for the position.
“I am strongly considering it, and I will be making a decision very soon,” she said. “I have gotten a lot of encouragement and would love the opportunity to build on the things I was doing at the county commission.”
Council member David Cox said his election campaign plans have not changed but said he didn’t want to announce them yet “out of respect for the mayor.”
Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson, who just won re-election this past fall for his county seat, said he’s concentrating on being a commissioner, but he didn’t rule it out.
“I want to do a lot of listening,” he said. “But no announcement today. There is a lot of things to consider in light of [McFarlane’s] announcement is. So I am concentrating on being a commissioner.”
Former Raleigh Planning Director Mitch Silver has thought about running for mayor in the future, but said “it is unlikely for 2019.” He currently lives in New York and his term as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation ends in 2021. “I wouldn’t rule anything out,” he said. “But I would say it is unlikely.”
Efforts to reach council members Dickie Thompson were unsuccessful.
Do you know someone else who is running or thinking of running? Email reporter Anna Johnson at email@example.com.