Raleigh voters will be asked to go to the polls for a second time in less than a month.
Charles Francis on Sunday announced plans to call for a runoff election against incumbent Mayor Nancy McFarlane. Francis was one of two candidates challenging McFarlane for mayor and came in second place in last Tuesday’s election.
McFarlane got 48.45 percent of the vote, Francis got 36.67 percent, and Paul Fitts got 14.76 percent, according to preliminary results.
Despite trailing McFarlane by 6,000 votes and nearly 12 percentage points, Francis was eligible to call for a runoff because McFarlane failed to get the 50 percent required to secure a win.
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At a press conference on Sunday, Francis said he believes the election results show that residents want change.
“The results did not produce a decisive outcome,” he said.
Francis advocated for parks projects, including Dix Park, but said other projects have been neglected and deserve the city’s focus, too.
“Equity requires that we put just as much attention on our other parks as Dix Park,” he said.
Francis also said Raleigh must deal with its mental health crisis, public transportation, job creation, affordable housing, encouraging businesses and inclusiveness in city government.
“The choice facing Raleigh voters is clear,” Francis said. “Raleigh is filled with people ... who want to do the right thing,” he said. “But what’s needed to make those wants and dreams a reality is leadership. I offer the leadership required ... to make those dreams a reality.
“A runoff election is not divisive, it’s democracy. The people of Raleigh deserve an opportunity to speak clearly.”
In a statement Sunday, McFarlane said she proud of her work to build “a better, more sustainable, more vibrant Raleigh.”
“This year, our Council dedicated more than $60 million over the next decade to affordable housing, more than any other Council in history,” McFarlane said. “This Council has made housing affordability a priority and has committed increasing resources and staff time to address the issue.”
Francis also challenged McFarlane to a televised debate.
Early voting for the runoff starts Oct. 19, and Election Day is Nov. 7. The runoff is expected to cost an additional $500,000, according to the Wake elections board.
Francis is one of three candidates in this year’s City Council elections to be eligible for a runoff but is the only candidate opting to do so.
In the race for two at-large seats, third-place finisher Stacy Miller had the option for a runoff because second-place finisher Nicole Stewart failed to draw the required 25 percent of the vote to secure a win. Miller, who got 16.55 percent, declined to call for a runoff, saying he didn’t want to divide the city.
Incumbent District E councilman Bonner Gaylord also declined the option. Political newcomer Stef Mendell got 49.67 percent of the vote, and Gaylord drew 45 percent. Gaylord said calling for a runoff wouldn’t help “build bridges.”
Francis’ decision isn’t necessarily a surprise.
After election results posted on Tuesday night, Francis told supporters to get ready for a fight. Francis, a Democrat, has campaigned on the idea that McFarlane, who’s unaffiliated, hasn’t done enough for Southeast Raleigh and other poor areas of the city. A News & Observer analysis shows Francis and McFarlane supporters divided along racial, geographic and socioeconomic lines.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Francis boasted that he got support “all over Raleigh” – including northwest Raleigh and Inside-the-Beltline.
A PolitiFact analysis found that Francis, like Fitts, received some votes in those areas but wasn’t as competitive as he implied. There were 19 inside-the-Beltline precincts where McFarlane had more than twice as many votes as Francis and 10 precincts where she had three times as many votes as him.
McFarlane, in her Sunday statement, criticized Francis’ record and “rhetoric.”
“Mr. Francis has been long on misleading rhetoric, and has championed political labels while offering nothing concrete in details,” she said.
The last mayoral runoff in Raleigh was in 2001.
Incumbent mayor Paul Coble, a Republican, earned 49.15 percent of the vote and Democrat Charles Meeker received 47.65 percent.
In the runoff election, Meeker earned 50.97 percent and Coble received 48.87. Turnout also jumped from about 40,000 total votes in the first election to about 50,000 in the runoff.