Word from Charles Meeker: He is “moving ahead” with his campaign for mayor of Raleigh, though it’s too early to make a formal announcement. (The filing period starts in July.) He has hired Linda Davis, a fundraising consultant who helped businesswoman Carolyn Grant raise a record $650,000 for her mayoral campaign two years ago, not that it did Grant all that much good. She wound up fourth in the first round of voting, missing the runoff. Meeker, a former city councilor, came in third, also missing out. In the race between the top two finishers, Mayor Paul Coble won over Stephanie Fanjul by an eyelash.

Meeker limited individual contributions in ’99 to $1,000, and raised $87,000. This time, he will take what the law allows–$4,000. “I’m not anticipating a lot of that,” Meeker says. “But I need to be competitive with my opponent.”

Too bad. A progressive candidate should be able to campaign the old-fashioned way, rejecting big-money donations and appealing to the grassroots and neighborhood interests, which is what Meeker plans. Raleigh needs a mayor, he says, who’ll be a leader on development issues, and who will join the mayors of Durham, Cary and Chapel Hill in planning for future growth and transportation in the region, as Coble has not.

It is the case, however, that Coble’s re-election committee is dominated by developers and folks who work for developers, notably including Lacy Reaves, the lawyer who represents the controversial Coker Towers rezoning application in central Raleigh. Coble raised $327,000 last time and it would have been more if Grant hadn’t run. Look for Coble to challenge her record this year.

Meeker, at least, is repeating his pledge not to take money from anyone who does regular business with the city–developers and their lawyers, for instance. But he was stung last time by Fanjul’s assertion that, as between the two progressive candidates, she was running a professional campaign and could win, and he wasn’t and couldn’t. This time, Meeker wants to keep other candidates from splitting his vote by sending an early and forceful message: He’ll do what it takes.