Monday marked the official start of municipal campaign season (yes, another one), and candidates for Raleigh City Council and the mayor’s office have until July 17 to file their papers. At first blush, this looks like a status-quo election: Mayor Nancy McFarlane appears to be coasting to reelection, as the Council’s more ambitious politicos (looking at you, Bonner Gaylord and Mary-Ann Baldwin) have postponed their mayoral aspirations for another two years. Still, there’s plenty of electoral intrigue, and at least a couple of vulnerable incumbents. For shits and giggles, we’ve ranked them for you, based on their odds of losing, as estimated by us. Place your bets, everybody!
years on Council: 5
Odds of losing: 1:1
Eugene Weeks is an old-guard Democrat in a Democratic district, but there’s a perception that he’s ineffectual. (His biggest achievement is probably luring an Art Pope grocery outfit to District C.) Residents complain that he doesn’t return their calls or make himself approachable, and the far-reaching East Raleigh business incubator embezzlement scandal happened on his watch, too. Still, he’s got name recognition and a close ally in state Rep. Yvonne Holley, so don’t count him out. Weeks’ stiffest competition will likely come from Corey Branch, an engineer who lost to him in 2011. Since then, Branch has raised his profile as a member of the Triangle Transit Authorityalthough, as of February, his campaign committee only had $125 on hand.
Years on council: 2
Odds of losing: 3:1
He’s by far the Council’s slickest politician, but Wayne Maiorano rubs a lot of people the wrong way. In part that’s because he’s perceived as being in bed with development interests. Indeed, Maiorano, a real-estate attorney, has had to abstain from votes because of conflicts of interest much more than any of his colleagues. This fact has not engendered trust. As one North Raleigh resident wrote to him last fall: “It is hard to imagine that anyone could be an effective representative with so many financial conflicts on issues ranging from granting contracts, to zoning cases, to Comprehensive Plan amendments, to site plan hearings.” Maiorano did himself no favors earlier this year when he refused to tell The News & Observer how he would vote on rezoning the intersection of Dunn and Falls of Neuse roads to a commercial district. Considering that opponents of that rezoning have wound themselves into a formidable political bloc, Maiorano may face a tough road aheadespecially if former councilor Randy Stagner, whom Maiorano defeated two years ago, throws his hat in the ring.
District: At large
Years on Council: 8 Odds of losing: 5:1
Mary-Ann Baldwin is a proven leader, but she’s as reviled as Maiorano by the North Raleigh Coalition of Homeowners Association/Grow Raleigh Great folks. They recently called her out on their blog for “burying herself in her cell phone rather than acknowledging or listening to the four homeowners and the 300 supporters who came to oppose rezoning” the proposed-and-defeated Publix site in North Raleigh. Clearly, the contempt is mutual. Baldwin is a developer’s dream and besties with the Chamber of Commerce; then again, she’s also forcefully advocated for lots of good things, including the Oak City Outreach Center and Raleigh’s Economic Development Office. Baldwin will win big with young people, city employees, LGBT residents and especially women, so even if she’s pissed off the NORCHA crowd, she’s still a safe bet.
District: At large
Years on Council: 8 Odds of losing: 7:1
Russ Stephenson is less polarizing than Baldwin, but he doesn’t get as many votes as she does, either. A champion of affordable housing, he regularly runs afoul of the Chamber, which in turn means running afoul of The N&O. A newspaper smear campaign could take him down, just as it did Stagner in 2013. Ironically, if Stagner decides to run for an at-large seat instead of District Aa possibility, he told the INDY last weekhe would pose the biggest threat. If not, Stephenson will have to outmuscle Republican developer Craig Ralph, who’s running on a fiscal-responsibility platform.
Years on Council: 16 Odds of losing: 8:1
John Odom’s Northeast Raleigh district is suburban and conservative, and Odom, one of the body’s two Republicans, suits his constituents just fine. He’s been on the Council forever, a moderate who comprises the fourth spoke in Council’s pro-development bloc (Baldwin, Weeks and Maiorano). But there have been whispers that David Cox, a computer scientist who led the charge against the North Raleigh Publix, may challenge Odom. Cox has been on state lawmakers’ radars recently too, as he (unsuccessfully) lobbied legislators to vote against repealing zoning-protest petitions. Cox was noncommittal when reached by the INDY on Monday, but if he runs, his chances of winning will be almost as good as Odom’s. This race could be very fun to watch.
Years on Council: 6 Odds of losing: 10:1
Bonner Gaylord is not coy about his ambitions: He’s already all-but announced a mayoral bid in 2017 and probably has aspirations beyond that. On Council, he helped land Google Fiber and launch CityCamp-NC. Gaylord is also an ardent environmentalist, advocating for more green space and eliminating plastic bags. His opponent, DeAntony Collins, seems capable enough, but lacks the political experience to take down an incumbent of Gaylord’s stature. Besides, District E cuts a suburban swath of west and northwest Raleigh; Gaylord manages the North Hills development for John Kane. Which is to say, he gets his people.
Years on Council: 1(appointed following the death of Thomas Crowder) Odds of losing: 18:1
Kay Crowder’s picking up right where her husbandthe late Thomas Crowder, a beloved, longtime councilorleft off. District D is urban, middle-class and has some of the most politically engaged citizens in the entire city. An advocate for housing and neighborhoods, Crowder, like Stephenson, isn’t afraid to challenge developers and advocate for affordable housing. So far, she’s running unopposed.
Years on Council: 8, 4 as mayor Odds of losing: 26:1
Mayor McFarlane has had a number of recent triumphs: Dix Park, the transit plan, all those Forbes lists ranking Raleigh as the best place for whatever. She’s well liked and splits the difference in the city’s development debatesdevelopers don’t hate her, but citizens feel like she’s on their side. In private moments, critics will say she lacks vision, but she makes the trains run on time. To date, no one is challenging her, and even if someone did, the challenger would be a serious long-shot.