by Bob Geary
The "Meeker Majority" is no more. Mayor Charles Meeker was re-elected, as expected, but if goes looking for four progressive City Council members to make a 5-3 majority, he'll have trouble finding them now that District B Councilor Rodger Koopman's not on hand. Koopman was beaten rather easily by former Councilor John Odom. The Republican-over-Democrat result was helped by a big turnout in the District 9 (North Raleigh) school board election, won by the GOP-backed Deborah Prickett.
Koopman's loss means the progressive majority that came together around such issues as higher impact fees on development -- a majority that included Meeker, Russ Stephenson, Thomas Crowder, Nancy McFarlane and Koopman -- is no more. Neither Mary-Ann Baldwin nor James West, both re-elected tonight (as were the others, Koopman excepted), fits the progressive mold. Newcomer Bonner Gaylord, elected to replace departing conservative Philip Isley in District E, ran with Isley's blessing.
In the District D grudge match, Councilor Thomas Crowder won with nearly 70 percent of the vote over challenger Ted Van Dyk. Crowder was the neighborhoods' candidate, and proved once again that District D -- Southwest Raleigh -- is a neighborhoods stronghold. Van Dyk had the real estate interests with him, plus West and Baldwin, and he ran a well-funded, thoroughly negative campaign. It was a complete flop, leaving Crowder in a stronger position than ever on the Council.
In the at-large race, Baldwin ran first by attracting a lot of Republicans' "other" votes (the lone GOP candidate, Champ Claris, finished a respectable third), even though she's a Democrat. Russ Stephenson, who ran strongest on the Democratic side, finished a close second. (The top two were elected without the need for a runoff.) Democrat Lee Sartain was a distant fourth.