Like high-stakes gamblers in a pivotal game, Mayor Nancy McFarlane and challenger Charles Francis sat across from each other Friday and worked to make the most of the cards they were dealt.
The mayoral candidates were playing the odds that they could reach voters in the Nov. 7 election with persuasive answers to questions posed by Spectrum News anchor Tim Boyum
In a lightning round of sorts—the debate only lasted 30 minutes—three-term incumbent McFarlane pushed her experience in government and business, while Francis pledged to operate the city more efficiently and to take more vigorous steps to reach some of Raleigh's underserved people. Both seemed sharp and energetic as they flew through the rounds of questions.
On Friday afternoon, the combatants exchanged campaign rhetoric and the occasional barb in the Spectrum studio on Atlantic Avenue for airing Friday and Sunday nights. The event was designed to give readers another look at the candidates before a Nov. 7 runoff, requested by Francis after McFarlane failed to receive more than fifty percent of Oct. 10 balloting.
Who are these folks?
By Thomas Goldsmith
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane prepares for an Oct. 20, 2017 debate with Spectrum News anchor Tim Boyum, center, and challenger Charles Francis.
Francis, a banker
and lawyer, twice described himself as a "warrior" who would fight for people from all over the city. McFarlane, a pharmacist who started and sold a specialty pharmacy company, emphasized her business expertise and broad connections: "I've spent 10 years in this job and many more years in the business community. I have strong bonds with people all across the board."
What can they do about sky-high rents?
On affordable housing, McFarlane cited the one-cent property tax increase voters approved for that purpose in October, then touted a recent council initiative that will renovate 215 units of dilapidated housing, allowing residents to remain in the dwellings. As he has said in the campaign, Francis described the one-cent tax increase as "too little, too late" and not the right approach: He suggested preserving existing affordable housing and building new capacity with tax credits.
Which parties are they in?
Francis is a lifelong Democrat endorsed by the Wake County leadership of the party. However, he has received significant donations from Republican donors as well as Democrats,
and has been endorsed by conservative GOP mayoral candidate Paul Fitts, who finished third in the October election. McFarlane, registered as unaffiliated, has received the endorsement of Wake Democrats in the past and gets support from both parties as well: "I've always thought my primary job is working for the city of Raleigh. It doesn't matter if i
am working with a Democrat or a Republican, having that unaffiliated status allows me flexibility."
McFarlane allowed herself a little elation when Francis suggested using TransLoc, a transit software company, to make the city's network operate more efficiently. "TransLoc is going to be a to be a huge asset; it's in the Wake County transit plan." Francis ragged McFarlane for letting a reduction in benefits for first responders slip through council on a consent agenda, a problem she said was fixed in a few days. Said Francis: "That's not how leadership works."
Differing over Dix
Having pushed through to the deal that bought
the Dorothea Dix property for a destination park for Raleigh, McFarlane stressed its importance: "This park is going to be an economic driver for this city for generations. You can look at any city in the country that has a central park. We have an opportunity to create one like no other."
Francis replied: "I support Dix Park, but it needs to be an inclusive process where people are actually listened to in terms of what they'd like to be. Parks are important to the quality of life. I believe in parks. But parks are not as important as good jobs with high pay and access to housing."
Closing it down
In closing statements, McFarlane said, "Raleigh is in good shape and I'm proud of that,
and I'm proud to be the mayor for
all of Raleigh."
Francis said: "I've worked successfully with people from diverse backgrounds all of my life.
That's what I'm going to continue to do. If you believe in that sort of cooperation, then I ask for your support."