Wake County

Candidate for Raleigh mayor says he’s not sure if he will call for a runoff

Raleigh mayor candidate Charles Francis waiting on runoff decision

Raleigh mayor candidate Charles Francis says runoff decision will come on Monday.
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Raleigh mayor candidate Charles Francis says runoff decision will come on Monday.

Charles Francis, a candidate for Raleigh mayor, said Wednesday he was still deciding whether to request a runoff election against incumbent Nancy McFarlane.

If Francis does call for a runoff, voters would return to the polls Nov. 7 to cast ballots a second time in the mayor’s race. McFarlane, who is seeking her fourth term, won 48.45 percent of the vote Tuesday, but it wasn’t enough to avoid the possibility of a runoff. Candidates must win more than 50 percent of the vote to win outright.

Francis, an attorney and businessman, said he will talk to voters and campaign donors about whether to call for a runoff election. He won 36.67 percent of the vote Tuesday, while a third candidate, Paul Fitts, won about 14.76 percent.

“At this point, we are exploring every avenue and having conversations with leaders in the community,” Francis said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon outside his downtown law firm.

Earlier Wednesday, the state Board of Elections urged candidates to decide quickly whether they want runoffs. Two Raleigh City Council candidates also have the option of bringing voters back to the polls.

Under state law, candidates have until noon on Oct. 19 to request a runoff. But that’s the day early voting would start for the Nov. 7 election, making it tough to create ballots and make arrangements for polling sites.

“Counties will not be able to start early voting on time if candidates wait to request a runoff,” Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the state board, said in a statement.

Francis said he wants to wait for the official vote tally, which could be finalized Monday. He noted that he and Fitts together earned more votes than McFarlane.

“I’m not going to be driven by a bureaucrat’s timetable,” he said. “I’m going to be driven by the responses and wishes of voters.”

McFarlane, an unaffiliated candidate, said Wednesday she hopes Francis, a Democrat, will concede the race. Republican voters might not return to the polls for a runoff between her and Francis, she said.

“I can look at what the numbers are and (Francis) would have to get a substantial number of new votes to win, and I don’t know where those new votes would come from,” McFarlane said.

It’s unclear whether two City Council candidates will request runoffs. Incumbent Bonner Gaylord fell behind challenger Stef Mendell in the race for District E, which spans much of northwest Raleigh. In the race for two at-large seats, Stacy Miller came in third place behind Nicole Stewart, who didn’t top the required 25 percent of the vote to win outright.

Charles Francis, candidate for mayor of Raleigh, talks about the delay in results during an election night party at The Big Easy in Raleigh Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017.

Mendell, a community activist and political newcomer who was endorsed by the Wake County Democratic Party, missed winning the District E seat outright by less than half a percent. On Wednesday, she called for Gaylord, who works for Kane Realty and has served four terms on the council, to “make the right decision” and concede the election.

“The voters have spoken and when I am on the City Council, I intend to make their voices louder and more influential,” Mendell said in a statement.

Nicole Stewart, also a political newcomer, won 23 percent of the vote in the at-large race. Miller, an attorney, won 16.5 percent.

Gary Sims, head of the Wake County Board of Elections, said his office would reach out to candidates and their teams over the weekend before results from Tuesday’s election are certified Monday.

“We have to get ballots prepared, and you can’t just snap your fingers and have that happen,” Sims said. “We have to call in workers and get everyone ready to go.”

Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan

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