A big field of candidates for mayor and Raleigh City Council is a good sign of things accomplished and challenges to come, and that civic-minded folks want to be in on the action. That ought to stir an energetic dialogue as the Oct. 10 election nears.
As usual, there are veterans and first-time candidates, incumbents likely to win and other candidates seeking to get their names “out there,” perhaps for future races.
Mayor Nancy McFarlane, seeking a fourth term, can rightly take a lion’s share of the credit for a hard-won deal on Dix Park, and the mayor had hired a strong staff and maintained a cohesive council to work progressively on housing, development and infrastructure in a growing city. The mayor has also had a fairly high profile nationally, and could even claim the same internationally, as she’s bringing the Dalai Lama to the Capital City in the fall.
Attorney Charles Francis, who served briefly on the council in the early 1990s, certainly has some bona fides and will make for a credible challenger, but McFarlane is going to be a formidable opponent.
Otherwise, the most interesting race may be for the at-large seat now held by Mary-Ann Baldwin, who’s leaving the council after 10 years. Baldwin’s been a good member, sometimes clashing with other progressives over development (she’s perceived as friendly to developers and business), but her tenure has been sound and thoughtful. In resigning, Baldwin seemed to endorse two capable people seeking an at-large seat, attorney Stacy Miller and Nicole Stewart, who works for a coalition of environmental groups. They’ll be running in a field of seven that includes incumbent Russ Stephenson, the council’s longest-serving member. Stephenson is likely to retain his at-large seat.
In the district races, all incumbents have challengers, but it will be hard for those who aspire to beat an incumbent to do so, because this has been a strong council and historically, voters in Raleigh have given the nod to those who want to remain in office if they’ve done a credible job.
And that’s the case with incumbent district councilors Dickie Thompson (A), Corey Branch (C), Kay Crowder (D) and Bonner Gaylord (E).
The district race most likely to be interesting is in District B in northeast Raleigh, where there’s to be a rematch between incumbent David Cox, who’s fought some development efforts in the district and John Odom, a longtime council member seeking to return. Cox beat Odom two years ago in something of a surprise.
(Note: The News & Observer will make editorial endorsements after candidates have made their cases to voters.)
And why is it that so many people would want to invest in the time-consuming task of being a member of the City Council? Because Raleigh is on the move, and has been for nearly two decades, with downtown revitalization a success, the Dix deal done and more people coming to the city all the time.
But with this achievement come challenges, first among them affordable housing and guiding while not stalling growth. Raleigh had been on the upswing, it’s true. But the next council is going to be wrestling with some daunting challenges.