Hemminger Leads Race for Chapel Hill Mayor

The Chapel Hill political landscape has seen a drastic shift in polling numbers in the lead-up to Election Day.

A new Public Policy Polling survey has challenger Pam Hemminger leading the Mayoral race with 43 percent of those surveyed responding they would support the former Chapel Hill – Carrboro City School Board member and County Commissioner.

PPP director Tom Jensen spoke with WCHL’s Aaron Keck.


Incumbent Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt received support from 37 percent of respondents.

Challenger Gary Kahn came in at two percent.

Support from Hemminger has grown by 18 points since the first Public Policy Polling survey on Chapel Hill voters, while Kleinschmidt’s support numbers have remained steady from the first polling in late September.

Hemminger has a favorability rate of 51 percent compared to 14 percent of those surveyed who have an unfavorable opinion.

More respondents approve rather than disapprove of the job Kleinschmidt is doing as Mayor, but the margin is much closer with 44 percent approving and 36 disapproving.

Public Policy Polling says that based on previous municipal election turnout and the six point margin between the top two contenders, a race for Mayor could be decided by an estimated 500 votes.

18 percent of respondents were still undecided on who they would cast a ballot for in the Mayoral race as Election Day approaches.

The number of undecided voters is considerably higher in the race for four seats on the Chapel Hill Town Council, with 39 percent of respondents uncertain of who they would pick as their first choice and half of those surveyed unsure of who their second choice would be.

Challenger Nancy Oates continues to lead the Town Council candidates, 30 percent of respondents say they would peg Oates for one of their four votes. Oates was followed by challenger Jessica Anderson, 29 percent, incumbent Jim Ward, 28 percent, and challenger David Schwartz, 25 percent.

Incumbent Donna Bell checked in at number five in the Town Council race. Bell received support from 22 percent of respondents. Challenger Michael Parker, 20 percent, and Lee Storrow, 19 percent, are within shouting distance of the four open seats.

Challengers Paul Neebe, eight percent, and Adam Jones, six percent, round out the field of candidates.

Based on past election turnout, once again, Public Policy Polling states that an estimated 1,000 votes could separate first and seventh places in the race for Town Council.

Endorsements have been coming in from around the community in recent weeks.

You can see the raw data from Public Policy Polling here.


Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools Candidate Forum

It is election season and candidate forums are helping voters decide who they will cast their ballot for this year.

Eight candidates are running for four open seats on the Chapel Hill – Carrboro City Schools Board of Education; two incumbents are not running for re-election.

A CHCCS debate on Monday night presented by the PTA Council, Chapel Hill – Carrboro NAACP and the Special Needs Advisory Council was aired live on WCHL.

Listen to the debate below:


Municipal races in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough will also be on the ballot this fall.

Early voting begins on October 22. Election Day is November 3.


CHTC Candidates Talk Growth, Engagement and Sustainability

CHAPEL HILL-Sustainability and citizen engagement were the key themes raised by candidates for the Chapel Hill Town Council at Thursday’s forum hosted by the Orange County Democratic Women.

Cuts to state and federal funding, as well as the persistent drain of retail dollars to surrounding counties have many in Chapel Hill looking for ways to grow the local economy.

Maria Palmer, who served on the Transportation Committee during the Chapel Hill 2020 process, said implementing the vision laid out in the new comprehensive plan will be the key to drawing new commercial development to the area.

“I don’t think any of us realize that the level of services we receive in Chapel Hill is unsustainable,” said Palmer. “We either pay a whole lot more in taxes or we cut services or we create new income, and that is one thing I really want to do.”

And 2020 co-chair George Cianciolo agreed. He said the town needs to focus on streamlining the development process and revising the town’s land use ordinances to provide guidance to developers to attract new business.

“There should be no reason that any applicant should have to wait more than a year to either get an up or down vote on their application,” said Cianciolo. “If we do those [revisions], I think we can get new growth, we can get thoughtful new growth, we can get well-designed new growth that will not only increase our tax base, it will bring in increased revenue from sales tax.”

D.C Swinton said he’d like to see new growth focused on job creation to help the approximately one out four Chapel Hill residents who live in poverty.

“There are a lot of people who are still in need of full-time jobs and I’d like to bring jobs through sustainable practices to Chapel Hill,” said Swinton.

Candidates also discussed ways to get the public engaged in town affairs. Loren Hintz said he wants to foster a proactive approach among town officials.

“So much of what local government does is complaint-driven,” said Hintz. “I want to create a new attitude where employees are going around town, council members are going around town noticing what the problems are and then pointing those out so they can be addressed rather than waiting for someone to complain.”

Current Council Member Ed Harrison said educating residents about the role of local government is one of the best ways to get the public involved.

“The more the town publicizes what the town actually does on a day-to-day basis, and what solutions the town can offer to people, the more people will understand that the policies of the town should matter to them,” said Harrison.

Only Democratic candidates were invited to Thursday’s forum. Cianciolo, who had previously been unaffiliated, recently registered as a Democrat, allowing him to participate.

Five of the nine candidates for town council were in attendance. Incumbent Sally Greene was out of town on a family matter, Planning Board member Amy Ryan was across town at the Central West meeting, and challenger Paul Neebe was absent. Gary Kahn, the ninth council candidate, was not included, as he is a registered Republican.

Election campaigning is well underway, with a slew of forums scheduled in the next six weeks. The local chapter of the League of Women Voters will host a forum for the Carrboro municipal candidates this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at Carrboro Town Hall.