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Jess Anderson will be Chapel Hill's next mayor, per unofficial results. Anderson won 58.79 percent of the vote, compared to Searing's 40.97 percent with a difference of more than 2,000 votes.

Anderson particularly outperformed Searing in the historically Black Northside neighborhood, where Anderson won more than 75 percent of the Election Day vote. The only precinct Searing won was Eastside, by just two percent. 

Anderson — who won a town council seat in 2015 and was comfortably re-elected in 2019 — positioned herself during her campaign as a mayor who would work toward compromise. She currently teaches graduate-level public policy at UNC.

During the campaign, Anderson started a program with town council member and incumbent candidate Amy Ryan called "Know Before You Vote," to combat misinformation in the election. Ryan was re-elected to the council.

This election had the highest turnout for a Chapel Hill mayoral election in at least the last 10 years.

Anderson said she was surprised by her margin of victory.

"I think it gives us a really clear mandate for the work we're doing," she said. "Which I think is so important because it also tells me that the vast majority of this town understands what we're trying to do, that they understand that we need to change."

Her main goals for her term are to continue implementing the Chapel Hill Complete Communities initiative and to heal a town that had been divided by the hotly contested and divisive mayoral election.

The Anderson-Searing mayoral contest was largely defined by Searing's opposition to the Housing Choices LUMO amendment that was passed this summer by the town council, 6-3. He quickly became the leader of the pushback to the amendment and promised supporters he would overturn the amendment — which has yet to substantially impact the Chapel Hill housing market — if elected. He staked his campaign on the idea that new developments should not come at the expense of parks and green space.

Anderson, though, supported the amendment and voted for it. She has said the amendment was a small step toward improving housing diversity and density — and she has argued that the Town should move forward accepting that environmental sustainability and housing affordability can be achieved.

Searing also recruited a slate of four town council candidates to run alongside him to attempt to form a majority on the town council opposed to the LUMO change: David Adams, Breckany Eckhardt, Renuka Soll and Elizabeth Sharp. Soll is just 16 votes behind Sharp for the last seat on the town council with some mail-in and provisional ballots left to count.

Searing's opposition to building affordable housing on the Town's American Legion Property also became a point of contention during the campaign. The town council voted in December 2022 to combine 27 acres of the Legion property with Ephesus Park and preserve about nine acres at the front of the property for affordable housing. Searing voted against the move, and Anderson voted in favor.

Searing did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Searing will keep his spot on the council until 2025, and Anderson's seat will also be up for election in 2025.


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Ethan E. Horton

Ethan E. Horton is the 2023-24 city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a city & state assistant editor and as the 2023 summer managing editor. Ethan is a senior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and political science, with a minor in history.

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