State Democratic Party Chair Pleased with Election Results

North Carolina – Voter turnout this election year was low, but that won’t stop members of the Democratic Party from making bold predictions about their opponents’ futures.

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Randy Voller is the Chair of the North Carolina State Democratic Party, and he says he and his party’s supporters should be pleased with last week’s election results.

“We pretty much swept all the races across the state, and in the big cities,” Voller says.

Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham, and Sanford are a few cities included on his list of successes for the Democratic Party in this year’s municipal elections. So what went right for the candidates dressed in blue?

“Tuesday night was a referendum on what the mood of the electorate is in our cities,” Voller says, “The mood was to elect democrats and democrat city counsels across the state, especially in our bigger cities from Asheville to Wilmington.”

Voller says that mood was set by both federal and state government actions and events.He says the government shutdown and structural issues nationally had an effect on this election.

But Voller says events closer to home, within North Carolina’s state government, had a heavy influence on voters’ decisions as well.

“I think the interference in local control by the general assembly probably was on a lot of people’s minds,” Voller says, “There are a number of places where the general assembly got involved in local issues which traditionally they would not have done.”

Voller says he thinks the results in this election are foreshadowing future setbacks for opponents of the Democratic Party.

“I think what happened in Charlotte, where the republicans invested heavily and lost, is a bell-weather for 2014,” Voller says. And he has a message for voters not following his flock.

“If your stance is, ‘I don’t believe in government, or government doesn’t work, or we should privatize government,’ you’re probably on the defense right now,” Voller says.

The Polls Are Open

ORANGE COUNTY – Forty-four locations are now open in Orange County accepting your ballots.

Twenty-four candidates are seeking 15 seats including the three mayoral candidates who are running unopposed, and WCHL has a profile of each candidate.

Visit WCHL and’s Election Central for a profile and a full interview with each candidate. There you can also find the precinct list for your location to vote.

The polls are open until 7:30 p.m. WCHL’s exclusive Election Day coverage beings at 7:00 p.m. with special guests including host of Who’s Talking, D.G. Martin, Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton, director of Public Policy Polling, Tom Jensen, and former State Senator Ellie Kinnaird. We’ll also be talking with people at the polls after they’ve voted during the Evening News with Aaron Keck, and we’ll be speaking with the candidates themselves.

Get Your Voting District Information

Last-Minute Write-Ins Shake Up CH Mayoral, Council Races

CHAPEL HILL – We might have a shake-up coming in the Chapel Hill mayoral and Town Council races due to a last minute write-in campaign sparked by the Central West planning process controversy.

Many residents in the area identified as Central West were angered by plans proposed for future development near of the intersection of Estes Dr. and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

That frustration has led to a write-in campaign supporting Tom Henkel for mayor, challenging incumbent Mark Kleinschmidt, who is running unopposed.

“I didn’t seek some people to vote for me until they said they [would], and I am fine with it,” said Henkel, who lives off Mt. Bolus Dr.

Henkel, a solar energy consultant who owns his business, Henkel Solar, Inc., said if he were elected, he would work to reinvigorate the Town’s interest in reducing its carbon footprint.

Henkel’s neighbor, Will Raymond, has also gained the support as a write-in candidate for Town Council.

Raymond, a software developer, is a three-time council candidate and a member of the Orange Water and Sewer Authority Board of Directors.

He was one of the residents opposed to the work of the Central West committee and subsequently circulated a lower-density citizen’s plan.

“It is quite clear that most of the candidates this year are cut from the same cloth as the current council,” Raymond said. “There is a lot of frustration because a lot of the council members have forgotten their place is really to serve us, and it really is not our job to serve them. It has been very disappointing to see with Central West how citizens have been routinely cut out of the process.”

There are nine declared candidates for four open Town Council seats. The incumbents include Council members Sally Greene and Ed Harrison, and challengers George Cianciolo, Loren Hintz, Gary Kahn, Paul Neebe, Maria Palmer, Amy Ryan and D.C. Swinton.

Raymond encouraged residents to write-in for Henkel and to also write-in the name of any person for the Council seat who would listen to residents’ concerns about planning for the future of the Town.

“I’d be honored to serve. I feel like I’d be prepared to serve,”  Raymond  said. “I do encourage folks to write-in. If they are predisposed, they know who I am, and they know what I am up to. If they know somebody in their neighborhood who has been active on Obey Creek, Ephesus Church or Central West, and they feel like they could do a better job in listening to the citizens, then I suggest they write them in, too.”

Stay tuned to WCHL as we host our Election Night special beginning at 7:00 immediately following the Tuesday Evening News, as we track the polls and bring you all the latest as results roll in.

Early Voting Spikes On Final Day Saturday, Still Low

ORANGE COUNTY – More than 400 Orange County residents turned out to vote early on Saturday, the final day—and easily the busiest—of this year’s early voting period.

Click here for the vote count from the Orange County Board of Elections.

At the close of early voting, 2076 voters had cast their ballots in Orange County. That’s well off from the pace set in the last municipal election in 2011 and slightly off from the total in 2009—though the 2011 ballot also included a county-wide sales tax referendum and the 2009 election included a tight race for Chapel Hill Mayor.

Of the four early voting sites in Orange County, the Seymour Senior Center was the most popular: exactly 1000 voters cast their ballots there.

Election Day itself is Tuesday. Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Check out our Election Central page for all the latest on the 2013 election, plus interviews with each of the candidates—and tune in to WCHL on Tuesday night for our Election Night special, beginning at 7:00 immediately following the Evening News.

UPickEm 2013

Early voting is drawing to a close, and Election Day is coming up. We’ll have our Election Night coverage on WCHL at 7 pm Tuesday immediately after the PM news; Ron Stutts, Elizabeth Friend and I will be joined by Mark Chilton, DG Martin, Tom Jensen, and many of the candidates themselves as we watch the returns come in.

But since I’m writing a blog a day, let’s talk predictions right now! Twenty-four candidates in Orange County: who’s going to win?  (I’m currently in first place in our college football pick ’em contest, so my inner Nate Silver’s feeling pretty confident these days…)

Tom Stevens, Mark Kleinschmidt and Lydia Lavelle are running unopposed for the three mayoral seats, so they’re pretty safe bets (though there’s reportedly an under-the-radar write-in campaign for Tom Henkel in Chapel Hill). Incumbents almost always win, so Randee Haven-O’Donnell, Jacqueline Gist and Sammy Slade are all pretty safe in Carrboro. Ditto for James Barrett and Michelle Brownstein in the school-board race, and Ed Harrison and Sally Greene in Chapel Hill.

Beyond that, though, it’s never an easy thing to predict. For one thing, we have no poll numbers to rely on, as we would if this were a state or national race. For another, the differences between the candidates are all fairly narrow, so it’s hard to distinguish between them—even for those voters who make it a point to be attuned to local issues. I follow local politics for a living, and even I had to spend half an hour on Thursday reading candidate profiles before I went to the polls—and I’m still not sure I made the right call.

(Did I mention I was voter #666 at the Seymour Center? On Halloween, no less. True story.)

And of course turnout’s been extremely low too—so it’s not so much about which candidate has broader support as it is about which candidate’s supporters are particularly motivated to get to the polls. We won’t know that till Tuesday night.

Then again, we know enough about voters’ behavior in past elections that we can make some educated guesses. So here’s what we know, and here’s what it might mean:

INCUMBENCY. Except in unusual circumstances, incumbents almost never lose in Orange County. That’s notable in Chapel Hill this year, where Sally Greene and Ed Harrison were both running fairly low-key campaigns until the final week. Jim Ward did the same thing in 2011: he spent no money, put up no yard signs, and sent out no mailings, declaring that his record spoke for itself and if that wasn’t good enough he shouldn’t win anyway. He won easily. Expect similar results on Tuesday. (Ditto Carrboro: Kurt Stolka is a strong candidate for Carrboro Alderman, but it’ll be a surprise if he’s able to unseat one of the three incumbents.)

2011 REDUX! This year’s race for Town Council is playing out almost exactly as it did in 2011: nine candidates running for four seats, of which six of the candidates are well-known commodities running strong campaigns and the other three are relative longshots. In 2011 the six strong candidates were Ward, Bell, Czajkowski, Storrow, Baker and DeHart; this year, the six strong candidates appear to be Sally Greene, Ed Harrison, George Cianciolo, Maria Palmer, Amy Ryan*—and Loren Hintz, who may have started as more of a longshot but has run an impressive campaign. (Shades of Lee Storrow?)

It’s a fairly safe bet that four of those six will win on Tuesday, but beyond that it’s hard to predict. Take Jon DeHart, for instance: by most accounts, he ran a much stronger campaign in 2011 than he did in 2009—and somehow ended up with fewer votes. There’s an extent to which this is kind of a crapshoot.

ENDORSEMENTS. All the key endorsements in the Town Council race have been divided among the Big Six: Indy Week endorsed Greene, Harrison, Palmer and Cianciolo; the AFL-CIO endorsed Greene, Harrison, Palmer and Hintz; the Sierra Club endorsed Greene, Harrison, Cianciolo, Hintz and Ryan; and the Triangle Apartment Association endorsed Harrison and Cianciolo. (Only two? Slackers!)

That’s a clean sweep for Harrison and three out of four for Greene and Cianciolo; Harrison and Cianciolo both have a long list of personal endorsements on their websites as well. Hintz got two endorsements, Ryan only got one—and that’s significant too, since I imagine Ryan started out the campaign as more of a favorite than Hintz.

The most interesting thing here, though, is how it shakes out for Maria Palmer. The Indy Week endorsements are always the most important, so Palmer gets a huge boost there—but the Sierra Club endorsed everyone but Palmer, so that’s a bit of a snub. (People have joshed the Sierra Club for picking five candidates—“not very helpful, guys!”—but I think the real message there is in whom they’re not endorsing.)

We don’t endorse candidates on WCHL, of course—I’m making predictions here, not endorsements, and this is only my opinion anyway. But remember, we will have our Election Night coverage on Tuesday immediately after the PM news; Ron Stutts, Elizabeth Friend and I will be joined by Mark Chilton, DG Martin, Tom Jensen, and many of the candidates themselves as we watch the returns come in. Check it!

CAMPAIGNING. It’s been a low-key campaign all around, but the most active campaigner for Town Council has been George Cianciolo. Maria Palmer and Loren Hintz have also run relatively strong campaigns (though in a different year they might have flown under the radar). Sally Greene and Ed Harrison seem mostly content to let their records speak for themselves, but they’re still both campaigning more actively than Jim Ward did in 2011.

When all is said and done, though, I think the most noteworthy thing about this campaign may be the presence of “Lydia Lavelle For Mayor” yard signs. Why do those even exist?

TURNOUT. No way around it: early voting turnout has been low. So low, in fact, that on Friday Lee Storrow took to Facebook to urge people to vote at Rams Head Dining Hall, lest the Board of Elections decide it’s not worth it to have early voting there next year.

But what does this mean for the outcome on Tuesday?

(Well, for one thing, it means anyone who can list more than 150 personal endorsements on their website has a pretty good head start. Good news for Ed and George.)

Beyond that, I’m going to guess—pure speculation here—that it means turnout is going to be limited primarily to those who are actively engaged in local government. That means activists, community leaders, friends of the candidates themselves, and folks who may not be regular activists but who happen to be riled up about a specific local issue in particular. Activists and community leaders alike seem to support Sally Greene and Ed Harrison; George Cianciolo has the community-leader vote on lock (plus many activists); and Maria Palmer and Loren Hintz both appeal to activists (plus many community leaders).

(There’s also quite a bit of overlap between “community leaders” and “activists.” These aren’t exactly rigid scientific categories.)

But the real wild card here is Amy Ryan, because…

CENTRAL WEST. For better or worse, there are a lot of people who are very upset about Central West—not just about the plans that are on the table, but also about the process itself. Presumably many of those people are going to be motivated to vote, and not for the status quo. To whom will they turn?

Amy Ryan seems to be the likeliest choice: she’s campaigning against heavy density, she’s uncomfortable with radical redevelopments, and she’s not thrilled about how Chapel Hill 2020’s being implemented. But—she’s also the co-chair of the Central West Steering Committee, which has been the target of a lot of this ire.  A weird situation: the voters most likely to be attracted to Ryan right now may also be the voters most likely to be opposed to her. And I don’t know how that’s going to play out on Tuesday. (This may turn out to help Paul Neebe.)

But it’s safe to say Central West will be a pretty significant factor in the outcome this year, one way or another—especially with low turnout. I’ll be interested to see how turnout breaks down from precinct to precinct; I bet you’ll see a higher percentage in the precincts around Estes and MLK.

AND TO SUM UP? The lower the turnout, the more unpredictable the outcome. (A lesson Bart Simpson once learned, to his great chagrin.) So we’re still in an anything-could-happen situation, even with Election Day so close. But three days out, I’ll make these predictions:

In Carrboro, Lydia Lavelle beats random write-ins by a 92-8 margin to become mayor. The three incumbents win reelection fairly easily, with Kurt Stolka beating Al Vickers for fourth.

In Hillsborough, Tom Stevens wins reelection as mayor by a similar margin. Jenn Weaver finishes first in the race for Board of Commissioners.

James Barrett and Michelle Brownstein are reelected to the CHCCS School Board. I’ll go ahead and call Andrew Davidson over Ignacio Tzoumas for the third spot, but that’s still practically a coin flip.

In Chapel Hill, Mark Kleinschmidt is reelected by a slightly-narrower-but-still-enormous margin. Incumbents Greene and Harrison are reelected to Town Council; Cianciolo also elected. The fourth spot? A toss-up between Ryan, Hintz and Palmer, and way too close to call. That’s the outcome I’m anticipating the most on Tuesday.

And by the way, speaking of Tuesday…tune into WCHL for our Election Night coverage, starting right at 7 pm Tuesday after the PM news; Ron Stutts, Elizabeth Friend and I will be joined by Mark Chilton, DG Martin, Tom Jensen, and many of the candidates themselves as we watch the returns come in.

(I’m good at shameless plugs. I really should run for office someday.)

* – Who, if she gets elected, will have a very awkward Town email address.

Early Voters Cashing In On Procrastination?

ORANGE COUNT – It’s not likely a late surge at the polls will get the early voting numbers to equal those of two years ago, but more and more people are making their voices heard.

Orange County’s four voting sites saw another uptick as 170 voters cast their ballots Wednesday. However, 2011’s totals averaged to more than 300 voters per day with peaks at more than 500.

There’s still time to check the box with polls open through Saturday.

And, don’t go to the polls without the information. You can find stories and interviews with each of the areas candidates here. You can also find the locations and times at which you can cast your ballot here.

2013 Mayoral Candidate Profile: Tom Stevens

HILLSBOROUGH – Hillsborough Mayor and candidate for re-election, Tom Stevens says growth is inevitable, and he’s happy with the processes that are in place to help keep the authentic small-town character of Hillsborough going forward.

“We have a strategic plan; we have a good infrastructure in place; we have a sense of the big things that we know that are enduring about Hillsborough,” Mayor Stevens says. “That’s our history; that’s our arts; that’s our diversity; it’s the connectivity; it’s the sense of identification; it’s our neighborhoods.”

WCHL’s Ran Northam spoke with Mayor Stevens about his seeking re-election and how he believes he’ll best serve you.

***Listen to the Interview***

Mayor Stevens is running unopposed.

He says including the town’s voice will continue to be one of his top priorities as mayor.

“I really think that is the mayor’s job as much as it is anybody else,” Mayor Stevens says. “You know, I’m a professional facilitator, and I think probably the thing that I’ve contributed most already to the Town Board, to public hearings, is including many voices.”

Between now and Election Day, we’ll be previewing each of the candidates one-on-one.

For more on Mayor Stevens, click here.

No Wait At The Polls

ORANGE COUNTY – Four days remain in the early voting period, and there doesn’t seem to be any sense of urgency to get to the polls.

The second and final full week of early voting started stronger than the first with 128 people casting their ballots. However, the total votes still haven’t eclipsed the 1,000 mark.

The Seymour Senior Center is averaging just less than 60 voters per day as the most popular location; Carrboro Town Hall comes in second with half that number.

For a list of polling locations and their times, click here.

You can find all the candidates in the Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough municipal elections as well as the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board election by clicking here.

2013 Mayoral Candidate Profile: Lydia Lavelle

CARRBORO – Carrboro Alderman and mayoral candidate, Lydia Lavelle says it’s not news to anyone that development is one of the major issues with which Carrboro is dealing. She says she will make sure the town continues to focus on the best ways make construction and people’s day-to-day lives work hand-in-hand.

“We’ll have continued construction along Main Street,” Lavelle says. “So we’re going to have a lot of traffic issues downtown. Part of what the Board has been looking at is learning from some of the experiences we’ve had with the hotel in terms of construction management, for example. So, we have some challenges in place to figure out how to route people through our town as those other constructions are occurring.”

WCHL’s Ran Northam spoke with Lavelle about her seeking election as mayor and how she believes she’ll best serve you.

***Listen to the Interview***

Lavelle is running unopposed.

She says her availability isn’t going to change from what it’s been in her nearly six years on the board.

“I’ll be available to meet with them, talk to them,” Lavelle says. “They’ll get good responses from me. I’m also getting ready to set up regular kind of meetings with our town manager in an effort to make certain that the concerns of all of our citizens are going to be heard as they have been, but it’ll just be a different kind of flow with the administration change, if you will, from Mayor Chilton to myself.”

Between now and Election Day, we’ll be previewing each of the candidates one-on-one.

For more on Lavelle, click here.

2013 Mayoral Candidate Profile: Mark Kleinschmidt

CHAPEL HILL – Chapel Hill Mayor and candidate for re-election, Mark Kleinschmidt says, as mayor, he’s going to work to make sure the town thoughtfully implements the Chapel Hill 2020 plan in an important time for development.

“We began the process with an idea of how things might work, but it’s going to be an involving process,” Mayor Kleinschmidt says. “So, that’s going to be a challenge for many people.”

WCHL’s Rachel Nash spoke with Mayor Kleinschmidt about his seeking re-election and how he believes he’ll best serve you.

***Listen to the Interview***

Mayor Kleinschmidt is running unopposed.

He says the best way the town is going to grow and continue moving forward is by feeding off the education community.

“If we can resist the urge to be attracted just to conflict and remember that we are a learned community; we are a community that can take lessons from the past and apply them to our challenges in the future and be respectful of each other’s opinions,” Mayor Kleinschmidt says. “You know, with 55,000 to 60,000 people, we’re not going to have unanimity on every decision that we have to make as a community.”

Between now and Election Day, we’ll be previewing each of the candidates one-on-one.

For more on Mayor Kleinschmidt, click here.