Excitement level, clear skies help turnout in Greensboro election

Frank Rakestraw, husband of candidate Mary Rakestraw, greets Jim and Joan Adams outside the polling place at Claxton Elementary.

Greensboro voters are going to the polls today to elect the next city council with clear and moderately warm weather. Polling places across the city have seen steady turnout.

“I think we’re up just from the buzz that I can hear and the calls that we’ve gotten,” Guilford County Deputy Elections Director Charlie Collicutt said. “From the reports that I've heard from the polling places, it seems like they have had good, steady turnout. Nobody was overwhelmed, but nobody was bored either.”

Collicutt said phone calls fielded by people who are not eligible to vote because they live outside the city limits indicates an unusual level of excitement and interest in the election.

At polling places across predominantly African-American areas in east Greensboro, signs reading, “Not Happy with Your Choices for Mayor or City Council? Write In (Your choice!)” have cropped up overnight, alongside the usual candidate placards. The purple color and lettering bears a strong resemblance to the signs of at-large candidate Yvonne Johnson.

A "write-in" campaign sign shares space with candidate signs outside of the polling place at Bluford Elementary.

A former mayor, Johnson dominated returns from east Greensboro during the primary. She is a close political ally of Robbie Perkins, a current mayoral candidate who traditionally performs well in east Greensboro. The signs message appears to be calibrated to soften support for Perkins among voters who might view him as insufficiently committed to east Greensboro and who might prefer Johnson.

Jo Isler, a white east Greensboro resident who is managing at-large candidate Marikay Abuzuaiter’s campaign, said she received a robo-call featuring a female voice that sounded African American suggesting that if she wasn’t satisfied with either of the mayoral candidates, “Don’t vote for either one.” (More from Ed Cone.)

As to the campaign signs, Collicutt said he has made an inquiry with the NC Board of Elections said that considering that the text is not candidate specific he doesn’t believe the person or group behind the effort would be required under state election law to form a political action committee, which typically report financial transactions and identify themselves in electioneering materials or communications.

District 4 challenger Nancy Hoffmann was at the polling place at Claxton Elementary in mid-morning greeting voters with her campaign manager, Graham Sheridan. The traditionally busy precinct delivered strong returns during the primary for conservative incumbents Rakestraw, Mayor Bill Knight and at-large Councilman Danny Thompson. Isler was also there campaigning for Abuzuaiter, whose number lagged in the precinct during primary polling, along with poll workers for Johnson, Perkins and at-large incumbent Nancy Vaughan.

Rakestraw’s husband, Frank, showed up at the polling place at about 8:45 a.m. Competing with Hoffmann for voters attention, Rakestraw told them that his wife “straightened out that parking situation on Westridge Road.” Some voters brushed Hoffmann aside.

Things appeared to be going better for the Hoffmann campaign at the Westminster Presbyterian Church polling place, where she had been earlier.

“I’m quite sure we’ve done well there,” the candidate said, noting that many voters gave her the thumbs-up gesture.

At Faith Presbyterian Church, a traditionally high turnout precinct in District 5, Chief Judge Willie Taylor said she expects to see at least a 40 percent increase in turnout when voting closes this evening. Located west of Guilford College, the precinct is something of a political tossup. Both Knight, a member of the conservative faction trying to hang on to control, and Johnson, part of the progressive-moderate coalition seeking a change of course, led polling in their respective races during the primary.

“We’re seeing the two groups [of voters], just like in the primary, Taylor said. “We see the coalition that formed across the city around the landfill issue. We see the very effective Republican get-out-the-vote effort, with voters bringing in door-hangers.

Knight chatted with voters and poll workers outside the polling place at about 9:45 a.m. The two volunteer campaigners were Richard O’Brien, a retired firefighter handing out cards for Johnson, and a member of the Professional Fire Fighters of Greensboro union holding an Abuzuaiter sign. The firefighters endorsed Knight’s opponent.

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