Baldwin, Francis appear headed for November runoff in race for Raleigh mayor

Raleigh voters may be experiencing a bit of deja vu.

Just like two years ago, city residents may have to return to the polls in November to cast their votes for the next mayor.

Former City Council member Mary-Ann Baldwin finished first in the race for mayor Tuesday but not by enough to win outright.

With all precincts reporting, Baldwin led with 38% of the votes, while businessman and attorney Charles Francis came in second with 31%.

The Francis campaign will release a statement Wednesday about whether he will ask for a runoff, according to his campaign manager. But at his event at Cantina 18, he told people to get ready.

“In the event of runoff, I want everybody to go home and get a good night’s sleep,” he said. “Then tomorrow, I want you all to put your running shoes on.”

The runoff election is Nov. 5.

From her campaign event at the Players Retreat, Baldwin thanked her supporters and fellow candidates for a good race.

It was clear their message resonated with with voters, Baldwin said.

“My main goal is to make Raleigh a city of progress, innovation and compassion, because quite frankly, if we don’t have compassion, then what good are we?” Baldwin said.

Former Wake County Commissioner Caroline Sullivan finished third, with 20.5% of votes, followed by Zainab Baloch, Justin Sutton and George Knott, all in the single digits.

With no incumbent — Mayor Nancy McFarlane decided against running again — and six candidates, it was always known it would be difficult for one candidate to gain the 50% plus one vote needed to avoid a possible runoff election.

Two years ago Francis ran against McFarlane. She didn’t meet the 50% mark, and Francis called for a runoff, which McFarlane won 58% to 42%.

At his campaign event Tuesday night, Francis said he’d be able to pick up support from some of Sullivan’s supporters.

“Most of all, this campaign is about including everyone in Raleigh and the way that our city is governed,” Francis said. “It’s about the people having a voice, not the self-proclaimed establishment choosing our leader, but the people choosing a mayor. In the event of a runoff, that’s exactly what the people are going to have to do.”

In a statement, Baloch said this was a sprint and not a marathon.

“I am not stopping here, and I’m counting on y’all to build on the people power we’ve created,” she said. “The issues still exist, which means we’ve got to switch to organizing and holding our elected officials accountable.”

The mayoral race was expensive, with Sullivan raising nearly $400,000, followed by Baldwin at more than $250,000 and Francis just shy of $250,000.

At her campaign event in downtown Raleigh, Sullivan said she was disappointed in the results.

“We ran a race that we could be proud of,” she said. “We had great volunteers, we knocked on over 16,000 doors and met great people from all over Raleigh.”

What’s next for the former county commissioner?

“Sleep,” she said.

Staff writers Tammy Grubb, Ashad Hajela and Aaron Sanchez-Guerra and database editor David Raynor contributed to this story.

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Anna Johnson covers Raleigh and Wake County for the News & Observer. She has previously covered city government, crime and business for newspapers across North Carolina and received many North Carolina Press Association awards, including first place for investigative reporting. She is a 2012 alumna of Elon University.
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