Mayoral runoff or not, city leadership in Raleigh getting a makeover

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- 24 hours after the polls closed in Raleigh, there is still a big question mark as to who will be the city's next mayor.

The Charles Francis campaign telling ABC 11, the second-place finisher is still undecided on requesting a run-off election with Mary-Ann Baldwin. Francis earned 31-percent of the vote to Baldwin's 38-percent. A candidate must win 50-percent to win outright.

Nevertheless, there will be at least two new faces on Raleigh City Council, maybe more, plus a brand new mayor. It's going to make for a big shift in City Hall.

"I think this shows that the city is ready for a change," said Saige Martin. The 28-year old grad student and consultant who was the top vote-getter in his District D race against incumbent Kay Crowder.

Crowder assumed the seat after the death of her husband, Thomas, in 2014. Crowder has represented southwest Raleigh since 2003.

Martin still faces a potential run-off. But if elected he'd be the first Latino on City Council and the first openly gay man. Inclusion and access were big campaign points for him.

"But that's not the reason I was elected. I was elected because I believe strongly that the best of Raleigh is ahead of us; that this election was really about ensuring that we make the bold decisions that we have to make to move the city forward," Martin said.

It's a critical time in Raleigh politics. The city's surging growth has fueled uncharacteristically big fights on City Council.

Tough or slow decisions about affordable housing, density, Airbnb's, even those e-scooters touched off feuds that many in city hall believe came down to whether a council member was pro-growth or anti-growth.

"And this is not a politician answer - but I really feel strongly that saying someone is pro-growth or against growth is not helpful to the conversation," Martin said. "At the end of the day what we all care about is the same things."

That still leaves the question of who's going to lead this new look city council. Will there be a run-off between Charles Francis and top vote-getter Mary-Ann Baldwin?

"I just didn't expect it. So I was kind of stunned," Baldwin told ABC 11 at her election night party on Hillsborough Street, still trying to grasp her first-place finish. "When I absorbed it, it was shocking."

A few blocks away in Cameron Village, Francis, who spent most of the evening with the lead in the race, addressed his supporters before Baldwin ultimately took the top spot. At the time, he sounded like he was ready for a run-off fight. "In the event of a run-off, I want everybody to go home and get a good night's sleep. And tomorrow we're going to put our running shoes on," Francis told a cheering crowd of supporters.

ABC 11 did reach out to Kay Crowder tonight for comment. She did not pick up. So, there's no indication yet on whether she will request a run-off with Saige Martin.

And whether the discussion is about Crowder or Charles Francis, these decisions on whether to request a run-off are not easy. Many factors come into play. Money is a big one. It's likely any candidate is considering whether it's worth it to spend more funds on four more weeks of campaigning.
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