Wake County

A Raleigh divided: Mayor’s race shows a sharp split

The results of Tuesday’s mayoral election paint a clear picture of divisions in Raleigh when it comes to race, income and geography.

Incumbent Mayor Nancy McFarlane and challenger Charles Francis essentially split votes down the middle of the city, with McFarlane winning the west and Francis winning the east.

McFarlane, a white unaffiliated candidate with left-leaning ideas, won easily in her first three bids for mayor, but this was the first time she was challenged by a Democrat. Francis, who is black, grew up in Southeast Raleigh and encouraged African-American voters to go to the polls.

McFarlane won 48.5 percent of the vote on Tuesday, while Francis won 36.67 percent. A third candidate, Republican Paul Fitts, won 14.76 percent.

Since McFarlane didn’t win more than 50 percent, Francis can request a Nov. 7 runoff. On Wednesday, he said he was still trying to decide whether to make the request.

Here are some takeaways from the results:

▪ McFarlane won 76 contiguous precincts on the western side of city, from Brier Creek to inside-the-Beltline neighborhoods and N.C. State University. Francis won 28 contiguous precincts on the eastern side, including Southeast Raleigh.

▪ Voters in predominantly white areas of the city chose McFarlane, a 61-year-old former businesswoman who has led the city through years of growth. Voting precincts and U.S. census tracts aren’t equivalent, but they provide insight about the voters who live in each precinct. McFarlane won only one precinct in a census tract with mostly minority residents.

▪ Voters in parts of the city with a high percentage of minority residents chose Francis, a 54-year-old attorney and businessman. In some Southeast Raleigh precincts, he won more than 85 percent of the vote. Of the census tracts corresponding with precincts he won, all but three have mostly minority residents.

▪ Voters in wealthier parts of Raleigh chose McFarlane, while residents in lower-income neighborhoods chose Francis. Twelve census tracts in Raleigh are considered “low-income,” according to 2015 data. Francis won all but three of the precincts that correspond to those tracts. McFarlane won those three precincts, one of which includes the campus of N.C. State University.

▪ McFarlane won Francis’ voting precinct with 55.77 percent of the vote. The precinct’s polling place is Lacy Elementary School off of Ridge Road. She also won her own precinct, which votes at Root Elementary School off of Lassiter Mill Road.

▪ More people voted this year, with 52,507 ballots cast in the mayor’s race. That’s a 45 percent increase from 2015, when 36,197 people voted.

▪ Southeast Raleigh saw higher turnout. In one district, 570 voters cast ballots in the mayor’s race, compared with 360 two years ago. In another district, 445 voters cast ballots, compared with 312 two years ago.

▪ More African-American voters cast ballots. Two years ago, 7 percent of black voters went to the polls, compared with 11 percent this year.

▪ Early voting more than tripled countywide compared with 2015. Early-voting opportunities were expanded this year. According to the Wake County Board of Elections, 10,144 people voted early in Raleigh and Cary, compared with 3,047 people in 2015.

▪ Paul Fitts won one precinct, and it was in North Raleigh. Across the city, Fitts won 7,744 votes, compared with the 9,129 garnered by Republican Bob Weltzin in 2015. This year, Fitts’ total was good for 14.8 percent of the vote, compared with Weltzin’s 25.2 percent.

▪ Parts of Raleigh are in Durham County, and 58 Raleigh voters cast ballots in Durham County precincts. Of those, 40 votes went for McFarlane, 10 went for Francis and eight went for Fitts.

▪ The last time an incumbent Raleigh mayor lost a re-election bid was in 2001, when Paul Coble lost after serving one term as mayor. That was also the last time a race for mayor went to a November runoff.

Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan

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