Dark horse candidate Matt Czajkowski outpaced incumbent Cam Hill by 63 votes to win the fourth seat for Chapel Hill Town Council. Czajkowski, whose campaign platform included addressing Franklin Street’s parking and panhandling problems, received 2,908 votes. Hill, who was seeking his second term, won 2,844.
“Obviously it’s a bit of a surprise,” Czajkowski said. “It suggests that there may be a broader base of dissatisfied voters in Chapel Hill than the incumbents perhaps sensed. The fact that I, an unknown, got elected might cause other officials to say there’s something at work here, understand it and be mindful of it.”
Hill couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
With support from downtown merchants, Czajkowski won four of 21 precincts. Yet his appeal extended beyond Franklin Street to the Cedar Falls precinct in North Chapel Hill, an area targeted for new development.
Seven people ran for four at-large seats. Except for Hill, incumbents dominated the race. Jim Ward received the most votes, 3,889, squeaking by councilmember Sally Greene by seven ballots. Bill Strom was re-elected with 3,698 votes.
Penny Rich, a former member of the Orange Water and Sewer Authority board, placed sixth; Will Raymond, an outspoken and at times vitriolic critic of the current council, came in seventh.
While the incumbents have largely applauded efforts to rejuvenate Franklin Street and maintain its character, Czajkowski criticized the lack of parking and lighting and the abundance of panhandling on Chapel Hill’s main drag. These problems, he said, have alienated some Chapel Hill suburbanites from patronizing businesses there.
“Downtown, if anything has deteriorated over the last eight years,” he said the morning after the election. “At the end of the day, downtown is a visceral issue. People are upset because they feel they can’t go to Franklin Street, and that’s part of the reason they moved here. Voters are motivated by something that is visceral. That’s what we saw yesterday.”
Meanwhile, in Carrboro, planning board member Lydia Lavelle placed first in the race for three at-large Board of Alderman seats with 1,656 votesor 25 percent of ballots cast. Incumbents Joal Hall Broun and Dan Coleman were also re-elected.
“My goal was to be one of the top three,” Lavelle said Wednesday. “I felt honored to get that many votes. It was a reflection of having strong support from the annexed areas, but I also spent a lot of time in town knocking on doors and letting people know I want to represent all of Carrboro.”
Lavelle’s win gives constituents in the northern annexation area a voice in Carrboro government. She defeated candidates Sharon Cook and Katrina Ryan, who also live in those neighborhoods. Running as a mini-slate, Cook and Ryan placed one-two in the Hogan Farms precinct in northern Carrboro, but didn’t dominate throughout the rest of the town.
Coleman won despite a controversy that surfaced during the last two months of his campaign. In September, he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon after hitting a woman with his car during a cross-country meet in Anderson Community Park. Although he originally stated that the woman climbed onto his car, at an October mediation hearing he admitted to hitting the woman. She was not injured, and after his belated public apology, she dropped the charges.
There were no wild cards in the Chapel Hill and Carrboro mayoral races, as incumbents Kevin Foy and Mark Chilton won decisively.
Mia Burroughs is the newest face on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board, placing first in the race for four seats. Incumbents Annetta Streater, Jamezetta Bedford and Mike Kelley placed second through fourth, respectively. Challenger Gary Wallach came in fifth, losing to Kelley by 337 votes.
According to the Orange County Board of Elections, turnout was 15.39 percent; 9,723 of 63,158 registered voters cast ballots.
In comparison, during the 2005 municipal election, turnout was 14.84 percent. However, more people voted: 14,025 of 94,482 registered voters.