A bitterly contested race for the mayor’s seat and the Town Council in Chapel Hill, as well as the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education, came to a bitterly close ending Tuesday night.
After a campaign marked by a clamor of anti-incumbent fervor, much of it drummed up with a strong push by the Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town (CHALT) political action committee, it was the challengers who won the night in all three elections.
Pam Hemminger, a former Orange County commissioner and school board member, defeated incumbent Mark Kleinschmidt in the race for mayor, picking up 53 percent of the vote to Kleinschmidt’s 45 percent. For the first time since 2001, Kleinschmidt, a local civil rights attorney, will not hold public office in Chapel Hill.
Kleinschmidt served on the Town Council from 2001 until 2009, when he won a nail-bitingly close election over former Councilman Matt Czajkowski. He is the first openly gay mayor elected in the liberal stronghold and the third elected in North Carolina.
Hemminger, meanwhile, centered her campaign around denouncing the town’s planning under Kleinschmidt. Hemminger was a CHALT-backed candidate. Third candidate Gary Kahn pulled in less than 1 percent of the vote.
Meanwhile, the race for four seats on the Town Council was tight. The top vote-getters were education policy researcher Jessica Anderson, social worker Donna Bell, local blogger Nancy Oates and Michael Parker, a member of the town’s Planning Commission . Bell was the lone incumbent re-elected.
Anderson owned 17 percent of the vote, followed by Bell with 14.3 percent. Oates claimed 14.1 percent and Parker pulled in 13.4 percent. Parker narrowly beat out longtime Town Council member Jim Ward for the final seat, besting Ward by just 121 votes.
The remaining candidates were not far behind. CHALT co-founder David Schwartz finished with 12.4 percent of the vote, followed by incumbent Lee Storrow with 10.1 percent. Adam Jones and Paul Neebe lagged behind, finishing with 2.8 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.
An equally contested race for four seats on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools showed that board is due for a big change too. Rani Dasi, Margaret Samuels, Annetta Streater and Pat Heinrich emerged the unofficial winners. Dasi claimed 19.5 percent, Samuels 15.7 percent, Streater 15 percent and Heinrich 12.4 percent. Streater was the lone incumbent to win.
A spate of candidates, including incumbent David Saussy, fell short. Theresa Watson led all the runners up, with 11.8 percent, followed by Joal Hall Broun at 11.1 percent, Saussy with 9.2 percent and Gregg Gerdau at 4.4 percent.
Not surprisingly, Chapel Hill voters overwhelmingly approved bond referenda for $40.3 million in spending on parks, solid waste, streets and sidewalks and stormwater improvements. More on this pivotal election to come.