Primary reflections

by Brian Clarey

The rush to publish on deadline is always a mad thrill, illustrated once again by YES! Weekly’s primary election coverage, filed the night of the event for the next day’s paper.

But it’s nice to have a few days to digest the results, dig into the individual precincts and try to get a handle on why things went down the way they did.

By the time the dust from the election cleared, several storylines emerged: Jim Kee’s dominance in District 2, Yvonne Johnson’s masterstroke that captured two-thirds of the city and the strength of at-large candidate Marikay Abuzuaiter, who placed third in the votes.

Some in the conservative faction of council took a knocking Tuesday night, including Mayor Bill Knight, who trailed the winner, at-large councilmember Robbie Perkins, by more than 3,000 votes — strangely enough, about the same number as voted for the other three candidates.

All the close races in the general election hinge on voter turnout. More than 20,000 Greensboroans came to the polls last Tuesday — not bad for a primary, but still just 11 percent of those registered saw fit to show up.

We believe the general election could draw upwards of 20 percent — yes, we’re taking the “over” on Nov. 8.

Knight could benefit from a small uptick in turnout — he got more than 17,000 votes in the 2009 general election, 10,000 off this primary’s mark — but if another 20,000 voters make it out in November, the numbers favor Perkins.

In District 4, incumbent Mary Rakestraw got almost 4,500 votes out of 8,700 or so cast in the 2009 general election and just above 2,100 of about 5,600 in this year’s primary, almost a dead heat with challenger Nancy Hoffmann. Both will try to lay claim to Tony Collins’ 1,300 primary votes — Collins declined to endorse after losing the primary — but the seat will go to whomever is able to turn out more Election Day voters. No big surprise there.

At-large candidate Chris Lawyer did surprise us by finishing fourth in the primary, behind Johnson, Nancy Vaughan and Abuzuaiter but ahead of fellow conservative candidate, the incumbent Danny Thompson, who finished with 5,300 votes. In Thompson’s winning 2009 bid he garnered just 3,700 votes in the primary, but it was enough to place third in that election.

Lawyer could gain more votes with increased turnout in November, but his effect will be diluted by Thompson’s presence in the race, splitting the conservative voice. As it stands, Johnson and Vaughan are virtual locks for the top two at-large seats, and Abuzuaiter has more support than either conservative candidate. Unless Thompson and Lawyer can motivate the conservative base in Greensboro, they will be fighting for fourth place in a three-seat race.

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