Some smell upset in what could be a tight Raleigh mayor's race

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Supporters of the mayor and her leading challenger are both confident heading into Election Day.

There is cautious confidence running through Nancy McFarlane's re-election headquarters.

After three terms as mayor of the Triangle's largest city, McFarlane and her supporters believe her record is strong. But some see this as a battle for the future of the city and the mayor's leading opponent has the campaign cash and the support to make a race out of it.

"I'm a lifelong resident of Raleigh. My family has been here for 100 years," said Charles Francis. On election eve, Francis was inside the beltline, meeting and greeting some of the voters he's counting on to help unseat McFarlane and launch him into the city's top job.

"The early voting turnout is already twice what it was in 2015," Francis said. "So we've been reaching out to people all over town; north Raleigh, south Raleigh, inside the beltline, outside the beltline, young people, older people to urge them to vote."

Some of those voters were huddled inside Martin Street Baptist Church on Monday night, doing Election Day strategizing in southeast Raleigh. They are Francis supporters and volunteers who've bought in to his message that Raleigh can do better - better public transit in underserved neighborhoods and more affordable housing.

"Most people feel that (Mayor McFarlane) is for big business and Charles Francis is for the little people," said Eunice Jones, President of the Wake County Democratic Party's African-American Caucus.

McFarlane spent election eve knocking on doors outside the beltline, reminding voters about Tuesday's election (turnout is traditionally low) and pushing back against any perceptions her six years as mayor have been a boon for business at the expense of the city's poorer residents.

"We're going door to door and talking to people and calling people," McFarlane said. "I hope they know my record. We've done a lot of great things for the city that I think a lot of people don't know about. We've dedicated a penny of property tax to go to affordable housing. That was $6 million in the first year."

Keith Vandegrift was one of the dozens of McFarlane volunteers who hit the streets Monday to help get out the vote for a McFarlane fourth term.

"She deserves the re-election this time, she's earned it," Vandegrift said. "She's the one who started a lot of the programs that have really made the city a great place to live, and I'd like her to be able to see them through."

The wildcard for this race could be southeast Raleigh.

Black voters count for more than a quarter of the city's electorate. But only 7 percent voted in 2015.

Community advocate Diana Powell, a Francis supporter, insists her candidate's message is attracting voters who've never voted before.

"When you can walk down Swain Street and pull 16 people off and get them to the polls. Those are votes that they never thought would happen," Powell said.
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