Political analysts will tell you it’s difficult to forecast local general election outcomes following primaries in off-year elections. One reason is the historically low voter turnout. This month’s turnout for the Fayetteville City Council election was dismal, but not unprecedented.
Standalone local elections rarely if ever generate voter interest the way statewide and presidential year elections do. Fewer than 13,000 people, or 10 percent of registered voters, cast ballots Oct. 10, of the nearly 130,000 registered voters in the city. It would not be unusual for twice that number of residents to vote in the general election Nov. 7. Pundits say the city council outcome will be decided by how well the finalists get their supporters to the polls. That’s another one of those indeterminate factors.
City council, day to day, has a more direct impact on local daily life than the state legislature or Congress, making decisions on important issues such as crime control, public transportation, affordable housing, parks and community centers and future growth of the city. There are 10 members on city council. The mayor is elected citywide. Nine council members are elected from individual districts. Not all the district councilmen were involved in primaries, which are held if one more than twice the number of candidates are seeking the available seats.
Districts 4, 8 and 9 have only one candidate each running against the incumbents.
District 3 council member Mitch Colvin won the day Oct. 10 in the citywide mayor’s race. Colvin has been serving as the council-elected mayor pro-tem since early 2016. He got 45 percent of the vote.
Incumbent Mayor Nat Robertson was second with 31.6 percent. “We will be fine, but we’ll have to fight for it,” Robertson said as the primary outcome became clear. That sentiment was echoed by District 1 council member Kathy Jensen who failed to finish No. 1 in her primary. Of 1,024 ballots cast in the district, 20 votes made the difference for Curtis Brown Sr., who placed first. “Mr. Brown ran a good campaign … time for me to get to work,” Jensen said.
The District 2 race was even closer. The two finalists in a field of 10 were separated by only three votes. The winners were Dan Culliton who got 430 votes and Tyrone Williams who got 427. Both District 2 and 3 elections were hotly contested because the incumbents, Colvin and Kirk deViere, gave up their seats to run for mayor.
In District 3, newcomers Tisha Waddell and Jeremy Wright won the right to face off Nov. 7. In District 5, incumbent Bobby Hurst chose not to seek re-election. That means at least three new council members will be elected next month. Six candidates filed to succeed Hurst. Johnny Dawkins and Henry Tyson were successful and will vie for the seat next month.
Longtime councilman Bill Crisp and newcomer Toni Stewart will face each other in the general election. Crisp took an impressive 53 percent of his district’s votes, making him the top per capita voter getter of the day.
Trevone McNeill will meet incumbent Larry Wright in the District 7 general election.