Raleigh, get ready, for the train of speeches.
Democratic candidate Charles Francis's request for a November 7 runoff against Nancy McFarlane in Raleigh's mayoral race kicks off another round of rhetoric, door-knocking, fundraising, and, very likely, a sharper new tone.
Francis, a banker and lawyer, came out punching from the day in July when he filed to run, calling McFarlane "aloof" and disconnected from many parts of Raleigh. McFarlane, a three-term incumbent, mostly kept the gloves on during the campaign, but that started to change by election night.
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane addresses comments by challenger Charles Frances on Oct. 16, 2017
She almost reached the vote count needed to avoid a runoff, but fell short, particularly in Raleigh's mostly lower-income east side. Addressing reporters Monday afternoon, McFarlane came close to calling the challenger an empty suit.
"Mr. Francis has been long on misleading rhetoric and championing political labels, while offering nothing concrete in details," McFarlane said. "His record undercuts his own rhetoric. Unfortunately, after encouragement from Republican candidate Paul Fitts, Mr. Francis has decided to call for a runoff that will further do just that."
Francis announced his request for a runoff on Sunday at Dix Park, a city facility that McFarlane plans to turn into a "destination park." He favors the development of the park, but not to the detriment of other city parks.
"It's not acceptable to put all of our focus on Dix Park and neglect other parks," Francis said.
Mayoral candidate Charles Francis addresses supporters at a September rally on Glenwood South.
McFarlane responded to Francis's general charges that southeast Raleigh has not benefited to the same degree as other areas during her ten years on the city council and as mayor, recounting a list of efforts the city has made to improve the area.
In addition to millions in capital improvements, after-school programs and refurbishing parks in southeast Raleigh, she said, the city in June introduced IT Beginnings, a twelve-week workforce development program to allow youth who have no jobs or are underemployed to get an IT certificate and learn job skills.
It's not clear how many of Fitts's voters will follow his lead in supporting Francis, a Democrat and generally a progressive. Fitts, who did not return a phone call Monday, based most of his opposition to McFarlane on what he called Raleigh's unsustainable debt load.
"I am very aware that other Republicans and business people will endorse Mr. Francis,” said Paul Coble, former Raleigh mayor and legislative services officer at the General Assembly.
Fitts, a full-bore conservative, has endorsed Francis on social media. Fitts took 14.76 percent of the vote in an unofficial tally, while Francis won 36.67 percent and McFarlane 48.45 percent. She needed 50 percent plus one to win outright.
Coble and Charles Meeker were candidates in Raleigh's last mayoral runoff, in 2001. While not expressing support for either candidate, Coble said Francis was smart to ask for the runoff.
"Frankly, I think it's a replay of my race with Meeker," Coble said, noting that he won more votes than Meeker in the first round of voting. "Charles called for a runoff and he won. It's all about who gets their voters out."
Meeker said he had not been aware of Fitts's endorsement of Francis. "It does seem odd to me," he said.
Of Francis's chances, Meeker said, "It's still early, but that's a fairly large margin to make up. What you're trying to do is get the people who voted for you before to come out. You're also trying to expand your base."