Most Fayetteville politicos thought this month’s race for mayor between two-term incumbent Nat Robertson and Mayor Pro-Tem Mitch Colvin would be tight. It wasn’t even close, and the outcome of the election had veteran observers wondering if the national anti-Trump down-ballot movement reached this far. Robertson is a Republican. Colvin’s a Democrat. He handily beat Robertson, unofficially, by winning nearly 60 percent of the votes, a difference of 4,000 ballots of nearly 23,000 cast.
Robertson’s strength was confined toan “old city” pocket of voters in Van Story Hills and other Haymount and center-city neighborhoods. Colvin, on the other hand, attracted an impressive, wide swath of support around Robertson’s core – despite the incumbent mayor’s expensive, negative ad campaign targeting Colvin’s past indiscretions and troubling business practices. Robertson said the campaign was fair game because his allegations were true. Voters evidently didn’t buy it. In fact, some of the mayor’s supporters were critical of him for launching what some called the dirtiest political campaign in Fayetteville’s modern memory.
Others sensed that Robertson didn’t have his heart in the race. After all, he said publicly when he first ran for office that he wouldn’t seek re-election. Close associates said the mayor had not planned on running for a third term. He had been offered a cabinet level post in Raleigh a year ago by then Governor Pat McCrory. Both are Republicans and had grown close personally. But then McCrory lost his bid for re-election, and Robertson’s hopes were dashed.
For the first time in modern history, Fayetteville City Council will be majority minority. Six of the 10 members are African-American, continuing a trend that began a few years ago with the successful election of black judicial candidates. Also, a second woman joins the body. Only one other incumbent lost his job. District 4 Councilman Chalmers McDougald was defeated by the man he replaced four years ago. D.J. Haire did not seek re-election in 2013 because of nagging back problems. But he apparently decided he wanted his old job back and ran an impressive, positive campaign touting his accomplishments while on council previously.
Haire had built a strong political constituency in his 16 years of service. McDougald, on the other hand, exhibited bouts of anger in public, and at one point earlier this year alienated the 300-member Fayetteville Fire Department. He alleged the city’s hiring practices lacked inclusiveness and resulted in a lily-white department.
Incumbents Kathy Jensen, Larry Wright, Jim Arp and Ted Mohn won re-election. Arp was the only incumbent who was unopposed. The dean of the governing body, Bill Crisp, won a sixth term.
There will be two newcomers on council. Tyrone Williams won the District 2 seat vacated by Kirk deViere. Tisha Waddell will take Colvin’s place as the District 3 council member. District 5 veteran Councilman Bobby Hurst did not seek re-election. Former Councilman Johnny Dawkins defeated Henry Tyson – but there was only a 10-point differ- ence in what was Tyson’s first run for public office.
The new council will be sworn in next month.