Wake County

How much would a runoff in Raleigh mayor’s race cost taxpayers?

Charles Francis, left, has until next Thursday to decide whether to challenge Mayor Nancy McFarlane, right, to a runoff election in November.
Charles Francis, left, has until next Thursday to decide whether to challenge Mayor Nancy McFarlane, right, to a runoff election in November. N&O file photo

A runoff election in the Raleigh mayor’s race would cost taxpayers about $500,000.

The money would be used to open 108 polling sites, hire poll workers and print ballots, said Gary Sims, director of the Wake County Board of Elections.

Three-term incumbent Mayor Nancy McFarlane won 48.25 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election, while challenger Charles Francis won 36.67 percent. Since McFarlane didn’t win more than 50 percent, Francis can call for a Nov. 7 runoff.

Francis has said he will decide next week whether to request another election. If he does, Wake County will front the cost and send the city of Raleigh a bill later in November. The $500,000 price tag is about the same as what it cost Raleigh to hold its first round of balloting, Sims said.

Francis, a Democratic attorney and businessman, said the cost of a runoff was immaterial to his decision.

“Any investment in a democracy and in a more democratic society is always well worth the investment,” Francis said. “I’m not going to be driven by a bureaucrat’s timetable. I’ll be driven by the responses and wishes of voters.”

McFarlane campaign spokesman Perry Woods said the mayor, who is unaffiliated, would prefer to avoid a “divisive” runoff.

“But as far as the cost of a runoff, that’s the cost of democracy,” Woods said. “We would not raise that issue whatsoever. If (Francis) wants to call for one, it’s every bit his right to do so, and we respect that completely.”

This week, the state Board of Elections asked candidates to quickly decide whether they wanted a runoff, because early voting would begin Thursday.

Two other City Council races were eligible for runoffs, but the candidates say they won’t make a request, securing wins for political newcomers Stef Mendell and Nicole Stewart. Bonner Gaylord, who has served on the council for eight years, narrowly lost his District E seat to Mendell, and attorney Stacy Miller finished in third place behind Stewart in the at-large race.

Raleigh hasn’t had a runoff in the mayor’s race since 2001, when more than than 50,000 voters turned out to choose between incumbent Paul Coble and Charles Meeker. That was well up from the 39,200 people who voted in the first round of the election.

Meeker, who trailed by 587 votes on Election Day, claimed victory in the runoff, beating Coble by 656 votes.

On Tuesday, Raleigh voters cast 52,449 ballots in the mayor’s race, and Francis trails by 6,182 votes. A third candidate, Republican Paul Fitts, won 7,444 votes, or 14.76 percent.

Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan

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