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The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill mayor elections expected to be close

Tom Jenson, director of Public Policy Polling said while the mayor is relatively popular and favored for re-election, it is going to be a much closer race than is customary for the town.

In past elections Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt has run unopposed, but former Orange County Commissioner Pam Hemminger might be giving him a run for his money.

“Things will inevitably change between now and the election because there are so many undecided voters,” Jenson said. “I think it’s a sign for the candidates that everybody has a chance to win if they can convince voters that they have the right vision for the town.”

According to polls, 33 percent of voters are undecided for mayor. While 40 percent of voters said they are inclined to vote for challengers, only 25 percent said they are inclined to vote for the incumbent.

“I am pleased about the poll responses,” Kleinschmidt said. “The numbers reflect that people are engaged in conversation about our community.”

Hemminger also expressed interest in the polls.

“I am very excited about the recent polls, I think it shows people aren’t satisfied with the direction the town is heading in,” she said.

The polling numbers also reflect how residents feel about the town’s development under Kleinschmidt, 50 percent felt it was growing at a good rate.

“The biggest indicator for why it’s a close election is that voters are clearly most concerned about the development issues,” said Jenson.

Kleinschmidt is in support of the Chapel Hill 2020 plan, which focuses on a combination of parking, housing, retail and office space along major roads.

“I hope people support candidates who support the light rail plan,” said Kleinschmidt. “That is the division of two camps of folks running for office, and I hope people remember that.”

In contrast, Hemminger said her main goal is to focus on making affordable housing a priority, creating more commercial space and having more collaboration with schools.

“There have been a large number of citizens who feel that their voices aren’t being heard or their input isn’t being valued,” said Hemminger. “I want to bring diverse opinions to the table and find solutions to our economic development — there are answers out there.”

When asked about the major issues during this election, Chapel Hill resident Lynn Knauff said she thinks growth and development is the focus now.

“It’s how we want to grow, where we want to grow and what that growth will mean for us,” she said. “For that reason it’s been very interesting so far.”

Jenson said the candidates this year have created a highly competitive race.

“(Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town) has put together an energetic group of candidates that are making it a more competitive race this year, which is creating a different dynamic and organized opposition to the incumbents,” he said.


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