Tuesday's local election saw little changes in some areas of Chapel Hill and Carrboro but major potential upsets in others.
Unofficial returns with 100 percent of precincts reporting show close races for the Chapel Hill Town Council race. Newcomer Tai Huynh was ahead of Nancy Oates by just over 20 votes, which would mean a UNC student defeated a Chapel Hill Alliance for a Liveable Town-backed incumbent.
Town Council was one of the closest races of the night and is set to welcome two new members, according to unofficial results. One newcomer also was elected to the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, and both incumbents for Chapel Hill and Carrboro mayoral offices were reelected.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board will see the newest candidates, with only one incumbent winning election to one of the four open seats on the board.
Those elected Tuesday will begin their terms by the end of the year. Those elected to Chapel Hill Town Council, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education and Carrboro Board of Aldermen will serve four-year terms while those elected to Chapel Hill and Carrboro mayor will serve two-year terms.
Turnout fell significantly compared to last year's midterm elections. Though turnout is usually lower for a municipal off-year election, early voting turnout for this year only dipped slightly for this election compared to 2017.
Over the last several election cycles, turnout has been on the rise.
Though local elections don't typically garner as much interest as state and national races, many voters Tuesday said they see participating in every election as important. The candidates elected to these positions will determine whether Chapel Hill and Carrboro expand public transit options, establish affordable housing or zone to allow for more commercial development.
"Politics at the local level affects communities more than national policy and I wish more people would vote," said Alex Chantilas, who voted in Chapel Hill.
The results will be certified on Nov. 15. Check out who won, according to unofficial returns:
Chapel Hill Town Council
Out of seven candidates, the four who appear to have won were:
- Jessica Anderson, an incumbent
- Amy Ryan, a previous candidate and Town advisory board member
- Michael Parker, an incumbent
- Tai Huynh, a UNC student
But just 20 votes, or .08 points, separated Oates and new candidate Huynh, according to unofficial returns on Tuesday. Oates said this means there may be a mandatory recount. Depending on what the official results show, the composition and ideology of the Board could shift.
Though all local offices are nonpartisan, all the candidates proposed left-leaning plans and emphasized issues like addressing climate change and providing affordable housing. Where they differed was on how to execute those plans.
Carrboro Board of Aldermen
Five candidates competed for three seats in this race. Incumbents Damon Seils and Sammy Slade won reelection, and Susan Romaine will be taking Bethany Chaney's seat. Chaney announced she would not seek reelection to the board earlier this year.
Although the race was close, newcomer Romaine surpassed both Seils and Slade's numbers. Prior to running her campaign, she volunteered in the community through PORCH NC and Orange County Living Wage.
Chapel Hill and Carrboro are facing a lot of the same questions surrounding transit, climate change and diversity. That's something both candidates and voters were aware of on Tuesday.
"I think the biggest questions in this area are probably about sustainable housing, low-income housing, sustainable growth, and trying not to price a lot of our residents out of the area — gentrification, for lack of a better word," Duane Rowland, a voter from Carrboro, said.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education
Three new faces are coming to the CHCCS board this year. Incumbent Rani Dasi won reelection, and Jillian La Serna, Deon Temne and Ashton Powell will join her as newly elected members.
Carmen Huerta-Bapat and Louis Tortora filed to run, but dropped out of the race before early voting began.
Terms for board members Dasi, Pat Heinrich and James Barrett expired this year, leaving three of the seats empty and allowing the new candidates to take office. Heinrich did not run for reelection, and Barrett passed on a race for reelection to run for North Carolina's Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Chapel Hill Mayor
Pam Hemminger won reelection to her third term as mayor, defeating challenger Josh Levenson with 88 percent of the vote.
Hemminger was first elected to her office in 2015 after she defeated then-incumbent
Lydia Lavelle won reelection to her fourth term as mayor in a standalone race. Of her four campaigns, she has only faced a challenge in her 2017 run.
Though she didn't need to campaign against a challenger, Lavelle said she still appreciated the opportunity to get out into the community to talk to residents.
"During the campaign season, it still provided an opportunity to talk to all the voters about what we’ve accomplished, what the priorities are for the Board, what projects are going to come up next and what we want to focus on," she said.
Amena Saad, Blake Weaver and Sofia Lesnewski contributed reporting.