Elections

Orange County elections are over, except for this Chapel Hill Town Council seat

Chapel Hill Town Council candidates Tai Huynh (left) and Nancy Oates could be headed to a recount later this month. Huynh was named the unofficial winner of a fourth seat on the council Tuesday night.
Chapel Hill Town Council candidates Tai Huynh (left) and Nancy Oates could be headed to a recount later this month. Huynh was named the unofficial winner of a fourth seat on the council Tuesday night. Contributed

Only 24 votes for UNC senior Tai Huynh kept Nancy Oates from a victory Tuesday night in her bid to serve another term on the Town Council.

Incumbents Jessica Anderson and Michael Parker and newcomer Amy Ryan will be sworn in for four-year council terms in December.

Huynh and Oates, on the other hand, don’t yet know for sure which of them will take the fourth open seat.

If Huynh holds on to his lead, he will become the first Vietnamese person elected to office in North Carolina.

The final unofficial count Tuesday night was 3,946 votes for Huynh, and 3,922 votes for Oates. That tally includes Chapel Hill voters in Orange County, but also in a portion of Durham County.

Election workers must next count absentee ballots that come in by Friday, military and overseas voters who have until Nov. 14, and any provisional ballots accepted during Tuesday’s election. Orange County elections director Rachel Raper said 33 total provisional ballots were submitted, but not all of them are from Chapel Hill voters.

The part of Chapel Hill in Durham County also could have additional ballots, although elections director Derek Bowens said he doesn’t expect many.

All the votes will be counted Nov. 15. If the difference between Oates and Huynh is less than 1%, either can ask for a recount before the end of the day on Nov. 18. A bipartisan, four-member elections team generally conducts a recount.

Oates said the outcome “really surprised me” but that pending work deadlines left little time to think about it Wednesday. As one who regularly questions developers and at times casts a lone vote against the majority, Oates said she brings an underrepresented voice to the council.

“Let’s see what happens when all the votes are counted,” she said, noting that challenger Sue Hunter wasn’t far behind her with 3,909 votes.

“Once I meet all my deadlines and things like that, then I’ll have some time to really think about it, look at the results and see what the differential is, and talk with people on my team and other people I trust, and see what happens,” Oates said. “It may be that it’s between Sue and Tai, so I may be out of it.”

Huynh, when reached by phone Wednesday, was focused on going to class and talking with supporters calling to wish him well. He planned to call the Board of Elections later about what to expect from the official vote count.

The election continues to be a learning experience, the first-time candidate said, but he and his supporters “are excited and optimistic.”

“I feel hopeful that our lead will hold, and we’ll see how it goes and how things shake out,” Huynh said.

Carrboro

Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle, who was unopposed, won a fourth term with 96% of the vote. There were 133 write-in votes for mayor.

Challenger Susan Romaine led the field of five candidates for Board of Aldermen. Romaine won 29.8% of the vote, followed by Aldermen Damon Seils and Sammy Slade, with 28.4% and 24% respectively. They will fill the three open board seats.

Challengers Steve Friedman and Matthew Clements trailed the top vote-getters. Challenger Matt Neal, who dropped out of the race in October, received 233 votes.

“My goal was somehow to get into the top three, and to tell you the truth, I was shocked and very humbled by the news,” Romaine said.

As a board member, she said her priority will be bringing more businesses, living-wage jobs and commercial tax revenues to the town. She will be looking for solutions that are simple, practical and affordable, she said.

“I worry about (diversity) maybe the most of all,” Romaine said. “Being at the polls over the last couple of weeks, you just have no idea how many people I talked to who told me, ‘I have lived in Carrboro for 15, 20 years, and I’m having to make this decision about whether I need to move, and I don’t want to move — I love this town — but I just can’t afford to live here anymore.’”

Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board

Incumbent school board member Rani Dasi led the race for four board seats. She garnered 23.6% of the vote with all 29 precincts reporting. Dasi will be joined on the board by challengers Jillian La Serna, with 22.3% of the vote; Deon Temne, with 17.5%; and Ashton Powell, who got 13.7%. They will serve a four-year term on the board.

Former school board member Andrew Davidson, who got 11% of the vote, rounded out the field. Two candidates who had withdrawn from the race after the ballots were printed — Carmen Heurta-Bapat and Louis Tortora — garnered just over 3,700 votes.

School board members Pat Heinrich, Jean Hamilton and James Barrett chose not to run this year. Barrett has launched a campaign for N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction.,

Hillsborough

Hillsborough voters elected a new mayor Tuesday and returned three incumbents to the town’s Board of Commissioners.

Town Board member Jennifer Weaver ran unopposed to replace Mayor Tom Stevens, who is stepping down after 14 years. She won 96% of the vote.

Incumbent member Matt Hughes led the Town Board race with 30% of the vote, followed by board members Mark Bell and Evelyn Lloyd, each of whom got 28% of the vote. Challenger Kevin Mason fell short of securing a seat with just 12% of the vote.

The town has solicited applications from residents seeking to fill Weaver’s unexpired term on the board. If the board elects a new member Nov. 25, the person will be sworn in for a two-year term on Dec. 9, when Weaver becomes mayor.

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Tammy Grubb has written about Orange County’s politics, people and government since 2010. She is a UNC-Chapel Hill alumna and has lived and worked in the Triangle for over 25 years.
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