The biggest ripples in the October 10 Raleigh City Council elections have come from a candidate who elected to sit this one out.
When five-term at-large member Mary-Ann Baldwin chose not to run again, it meant that the other at-large incumbent, Russ Stephenson, would face a field of six challengers, with the top two vote-getters prevailing.
The vote in the at-large races, as well as results in a couple of other races, could bring about a significant shift on the council. If Stephenson, generally considered a pro-neighborhood council member, maintains his seat—as insiders expect—and a development-friendly candidate replaces Baldwin, the council's balance would remain more or less the same. But if Stephenson falters, or another pro-neighborhood candidate replaces Baldwin, the status quo could be upset.
When leaving her seat, Baldwin cited lawyer Stacy Miller and environmental fundraiser Nicole Stewart as examples of candidates who could bring new energy to the council.
In the crucial fundraising competition, Miller, Stephenson, and Stewart are at the top of the heap. But with at-large races determined by a few thousand votes, the council's makeup will remain in the air until Election Day.
In alphabetical order, here are the 2017 at-large candidates for Raleigh City Council:
Shelia Alamin-Khashoggi, a community organizer, cites her experience of moving from public assistance to gaining two master's degrees as an example of how lower-income people can move up with help from the city: "The dynamic right now is changing. Affordable housing is not happening."
Robert Axtell, a service manager in the multifamily housing industry, says his experience will help as the city deals with affordable housing and public transportation: "It really comes down to convincing developers to add affordable housing to their portfolios, demonstrating to them that there is a huge demand for it, and showing them that they will make money."
Zainab Baloch, who's earning a master's degree at UNC-Chapel Hill while working for the state government, wants to attract young voters, diverse communities, and people connected with N.C. State with a focus on more equal opportunities across the city: "First we should remove the stigma surrounding affordable housing; we should take pride in making Raleigh an affordable city."
Stacy Miller, a lawyer who had a brief, appointed stint on the city council in 1997, has used support from the legal community and elsewhere to build a formidable lead in fundraising. Miller says his top priorities are affordable housing, economic development, and transit: "Every time I turn my head, Raleigh's on somebody's top-ten list, but everybody's not on that top-ten list. We can do much better."
Russ Stephenson, an architect and urban planning professional, says he believes his twelve years on council make him uniquely qualified for the job. "I've worked for sustainable growth that protects our quality of life for both our neighborhoods and all our existing citizens."
Nicole Stewart, development director for the N.C. Conservation Network, also cites the need for new leadership and says city government should address the needs of people across the city: "As I talk to people across Raleigh, it becomes completely clear that different parts of Raleigh have different needs."
Robert Ward, a commercial real estate broker and former boutique owner, says he knows the effects that local government and taxes can have on small business. "I don't believe the current city council has been responsible. I hope you will agree that it's time to bring in new leadership."