by Lauren Barber and Jordan Green
The High Point mayoral race teeters in uncertainty, with downtown revitalization proponent Jay Wagner holding a slender 54-vote lead over progressive Bruce Davis after the final tally on Tuesday night.
Davis began the night with a 10-point lead over Wagner based on early voting that gradually dwindled as election day returns trickled in. The slim margin in the final tally, with Wagner holding 49.98 percent of the vote compared to 49.40 percent by Davis, allows the second-place finisher to request a recount. Davis said he plans to take advantage of the opportunity.
Adding confusion to the unofficial results, excluding votes from Davidson and Randolph counties would have put Davis 104 votes ahead of Wagner. A local television station mistakenly reported that Davis was the victor based on the Guilford County tally, throwing the Davis campaign into confusion. Reached after midnight, Davis said he planned to seek clarity from the Guilford County Board of Elections on Wednesday morning.
Wagner and Davis are in agreement on the signature issue in the High Point election this year — building a multi-purpose stadium as a catalyst project in downtown — but they offered voters different approaches. Wagner presented himself as an unflagging champion of the project, while Davis argued that as a former Guilford County commissioner and a more capable leader he has a better shot at getting the job done.
Bruce Davis received an assist during the campaign from an unlikely ally — former primary opponent Jim Davis, a conservative Republican who took a skeptical stance on the stadium.
Campaigning for Bruce Davis outside the Deep River Recreation Center polling place on the north end of the city on Tuesday, Jim Davis said although the two don’t agree on everything, his former opponent holds the experience to do the job.
“I told him this: ‘I think he’s the one who can unite our city,’” Jim Davis said. “He’s not a one-issue candidate. He understands the violent crime, the opioid addiction, the hunger issues and all the other things. Not just the catalyst project the other candidates are running on. A mayor needs to be well rounded and understand that he represents the whole city, and I think Bruce is the best for that.”
In other races, pro-stadium candidates swept the ballot, dominating ward races, and knocking out the only incumbent running for the two at-large seats on council. Cindy Davis, a populist conservative who cast the lone no vote against spending public funds to acquire land for the stadium earlier this year, was nudged aside by Don Scarborough, a retired senior vice president at High Point University who has enthusiastically backed the stadium as a gathering place for the city. The top vote-getter in the at-large race was Britt Moore, who previously served on city council from 2010 to 2014. During his previous tenure, Moore took a skeptical view of public investment in revitalization efforts, but has said that the stadium is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that the city can’t afford to pass up.
Voters have responded so enthusiastically to the stadium that hardly any candidates, with the exception of Cindy Davis, really opposed it. The ballot was split between unalloyed stadium enthusiasts and qualified supporters. With the possible exception of the undecided mayoral race, the results of Tuesday’s general election gave the unalloyed enthusiasts a clean sweep.
Monica Peters and Wesley Hudson, two Wagner allies who view the catalyst project as a first step in addressing poverty and other challenges, dominated their races for open seats in wards 3 and 4. Peters carried 78.1 percent of the vote in Ward 3, compared to 21.5 percent by opponent Megan Longstreet. Hudson corralled 64.4 percent of the vote in Ward 4, compared to 35.1 percent by opponent Jim Bronnert.
In Ward 5, Vic Jones won the seat vacated by Jim Davis. A Marine Corps veteran and limousine company owner with a pro-revitalization tilt, Jones won with 56.3 percent of the vote, compared to 42.8 percent by Chris Whitley, a former council member with a staunch fiscal conservative approach to local government.
Jeff Golden and Chris Williams, the incumbents in wards 1 and 2, easily held on to their seats. Golden defeated challenger Willie Davis, 71.6 percent to 28.6 percent, in Ward 1, while Williams dispatched challenger David Bagley by a 49.2-point margin in Ward 2.