In a surprising political development, District E incumbent Bonner Gaylord was outpolled in the North Hills district by challenger Stefanie Mendell, who promised voters she would bring a better balance between strong neighborhoods and development.

Neither candidate got the majority of votes cast needed to avoid a runoff. Mendell, in her first run at electoral politics, had 49.67 percent of the vote with all precincts in and Gaylord had 44.93 percent.

Raleigh native Gaylord has served four terms on the council, becoming a reliable presence and a frequent ally of Mayor Nancy McFarlane. He was criticized in some quarters for his close relationship with major developer John Kane, for whom Bonner works as operations manager for North Hills.

Mendell is retired from a career as an international communications consultant. Like most of Tuesday’s candidates, Mendell is looking for solutions to Raleigh’s burgeoning affordable housing gap, proposing tax incentive and abatements to aid people affected by the problem by varying ways.

She’s also been a watchdog on runoff problems that can result from careless commercial or residential development.

Gaylord’s campaign did not return a call Tuesday night. It seems likely, however, that he will call for a runoff.