by Jordan Green
Britt Moore slides past Latimer Alexander in the unofficial balloting for the High Point at-large race on election night, but then the result is overturned in the official canvass 10 days later.
It would be hard to think of two political opponents more amicable than Latimer Alexander and Britt Moore, both part of a crowded slate of candidates who ran for two at-large seats on High Point City Council.
Both veteran political hands, Alexander had run citywide as an at-large candidate through successive elections from 2002 through 2010 while Moore was elected to an at-large seat in 2010 and 2012. Both of them knew something the neophytes might not have considered: It’s hell to put signs out at 36 precincts overnight before the polls open on Election Day. While they didn’t coordinate their campaign in any other way, Alexander and Moore, along with mayoral candidate Bill Bencini, decided on the eve of the election to split up the duties of putting out signs. Bencini took wards 3 and 4, the latter of which he had formerly represented. Moore handled wards 5 and 6 on the north end, where he lives. Wards 1 and 2, then, fell to Alexander.
“All of us are experienced politicians,” Alexander said. “We all know what it’s like to ride around in the middle of the night to put up signs. You cut your work by two thirds if you work together.”
As the precincts began reporting on election night, Nov. 4, Cynthia Davis quickly established an insurmountable lead for the first seat. But Alexander and Moore found themselves nose to nose in the race for the second spot. At about 10:30 p.m. when the election parties were breaking up, Alexander was in the lead, but when the last precincts reported before midnight the result had flipped, with Moore leading by 30 votes.
“It was somewhat confusing,” Alexander recalled. “I had won in Guilford and I had lost in Davidson. It was funny the Greensboro newspaper had reported me as the winner and the High Point newspaper had reported me as the winner, but I had lost, according to the State Board of Elections. I had people calling me the morning after, saying, ‘Congratulations.’ I said, ‘I didn’t win.’”
Alexander had already congratulated Moore and Davis, and offered wishes for success to the new council on his Facebook page.
But there was yet to be another surprise.
Local election boards across the state all canvass their results 10 days after the election, correcting errors and approving provisional votes before submitting certified results to the State Board of Elections. When the final count was complete, Alexander had picked up 44 votes, putting him 14 ahead of Moore.
“We had supplemental absentee by mail ballots and provisional ballots — that’s what made the difference,” Guilford County Deputy Elections Director Tim Tsujii said. “The supplemental absentee by mail ballots came in after Election Day but met the requirements. As long as they’re postmarked by Election Day, according to state law, they count. We don’t count those on election night. We wait until canvass so staff can do an investigation to find out which provisional do or do not count.”
Moore said he met with Elections Director Charlie Collicutt on Nov. 17, the Monday after the canvass. He had until 5 p.m. that day to decide whether to request a recount — an option available to the losing candidate in any contest whose margin falls within 1 percent. After closely reviewing the process, Moore decided not to request a recount.
“After careful consideration and going through the entire 10 days and the roller-coaster ride for everybody involved, I feel like I made the correct decision,” Moore said. “I’m satisfied that [a recount] would not have been enough to change the outcome of the election. If you’re satisfied with the procedure — I came up short. You don’t always win; you move on.”
While High Point City Council faces difficult decisions in setting the tax rate and over investments in revitalization projects and infrastructure, Alexander’s victory over Moore is unlikely to significantly affect the direction of city government. Both are conservative in ideology, but moderate in temperament. Each has proven to be cautious about embarking on change and careful to minimize friction with colleagues.
Moore said serving on city council is a more demanding job than most people realize, particularly if you take it seriously and take the time to do it right.
“We stand pretty tall,” he said, assessing the city’s position as he leaves the council after four years of service. “We’re currently in good fiscal shape. Our infrastructure is in good shape with a lot of work to do ahead of us. There’s a lot to be proud of. You have to stay vigilant. The biggest challenge is jobs and careers for people and a true growing economy.”
Moore said Alexander’s previous experience will put him in good stead.
“He knows his way around city hall,” Moore said. “He and Bill Bencini have served together. They’ll be able to do a good job, and help things be a little more seamless and help the new members along. That’s really important, especially with the change in staff, pending a new [city] manager.”
Alexander said he expects members to focus on building relationships first instead of immediately plunging into challenging issues when they’re seated in early December.
“I hope that the next council can work hard to build open lines of communication between the council members and to build some trust and respect for each other,” he said. “And hopefully we can do that until we plunge too deep into issues. Things always seem to work better when you have established a trust and cooperation before difficult issues pop up.”
Moore said he has no specific plans for public service after he leaves for council, but is interested in getting more involved in the “made in America” movement, which he sees as critical to economic growth.
“I’m going to do what I’ve always done and be out in the community and promote the community,” Moore said. “High Point is a wonderful, underrated town, and I’m very proud to call myself a High Pointer.”