November 08, 2012
High Pointers went to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 6 and elected an almost entirely new City Council, changing the occupants of seven seats on the nine-member City Council, including the mayor, who, when councilmembers are sworn in on Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, will be current Ward 1 Councilmember Bernita Sims rather than longtime Mayor Becky Smothers, who will hold an at-large seat.
Sims will be High Point
's first black mayor. Although reluctant to express optimism during the mayoral campaign, Sims dropped all pretense of calm after the votes were tallied on Tuesday night.
"I am super excited," she said. "I'm like a 9.0 on the Richter Scale. Yeah, about 9.0, I think that's accurate. I didn't have any doubts. I'm just not one to get ahead of myself. I just knew it would take a lot of work, so we worked it like we were running from behind."
There were three active mayoral candidates. Sims who got 33 percent of the vote beat developer Coy Williard with 27 percent and longtime Ward 5 Councilmember Chris Whitley with 18 percent.
Motivational speaker Tammy Holyfield, who withdrew from the race, nonetheless received 10 percent of the vote, and candidate Matthew Fowler, who didn't campaign at all, got 11 percent.High Point
City Council races are nonpartisan, but Sims didn't hesitate to attribute her victory to her Democratic base.
"I think I would have liked to have had a stronger Democratic council, but I'll work with what I have to get done what I want to get done," she said. "High Point
talks about nonpartisan races, but I don't look at it that way. We're all partisan in the end. We have our strong beliefs and things we want to get done."
Beginning her term as mayor on a partisan note may not be the best strategy for Sims, and is against recent High Point
Sims began her run for mayor with a huge advantage: The fact that High Point
several years ago did away with its primary for City Council races, which set up a situation in which Sims ran against two white Republican candidates who split the white and Republican votes.
Sims is unlikely to have that advantage in 2014, if she runs for reelection.
Many High Point
councilmembers, tired of having to fight to scrape by with plurality wins, want to reinstate the primary system – meaning Sims would likely run against one Republican candidate backed by a unified Republican Party. Emphasizing party distinctions even before she is sworn in may be remembered if the primary is reinstated.
"We need a primary," Smothers said. "If you look at the voting, we have one candidate [Fowler], who, as you pointed out, didn't show up except to pay $96, and got 4,006 votes, and another candidate [Holyfield] who withdrew and got 3,574 votes. That could have made a difference, and the same was true in the at-large race."
But Tuesday night was Sims' night. And during the mayoral campaign, her Republican opponents spent more time attacking each other than attacking her.
Even after the vote, Whitley seemed more concerned with the amount Williard spent on the campaign than about Sims' victory.
"We always knew that the numbers favored her," Whitley said of Sims. "I was hoping that north High Point
would come out heavily."
The third-quarter campaign reports showed that Williard raised about $63,000 and Whitley raised less than $10,000.
"That's how it goes," Whitley said. "I knew the numbers. I was outspent probably 7 to 1, and that gets you closer to being the winner. But that's fine. Now I can probably get some work done. I anticipated that the entire time, too. I think the citizens will be better off with Bernita than with Coy – I know that, because she knows what's going on in the City of High Point
Williard could not be reached for comment.
Sims said that the fact that High Point
voters elected a mayor with 10 years of City Council experience was more important than the fact that they elected High Point
's first black mayor.
"I think it says that High Point
looks at things from I hope a different perspective," she said. "I think it says that experience does matter. I think it says we're willing to vote for a person who has the experience to make things happen."
Sims said that, if she could get one vote through the City Council on the day after she is sworn in, it would be to get a street named after Martin Luther King Jr. A similar effort in High Point
failed after a high-pitched battle some years ago.
Sims said, "I would like to see us move into the 21st century along with other cities and have a street that is named after Dr. King."
The City Council has two at-large seats. One of them is occupied by Councilmember Latimer Alexander, who lost a state Senate primary race and did not run for reelection to the City Council. The other is occupied by first-term Councilmember Britt Moore, who ran for reelection.
There were five candidates for the two at-large seats. The seats were taken by Smothers, with 29 percent of the vote, and Britt Moore, who was reelected with 19 percent.
The other at-large candidates were not far behind Moore. Ed Squires had 18 percent of the vote, and Elijah Lovejoy and Cynthia Davis each got 17 percent.
"I don't take it as much as a vote for me as a belief that the city has been on a good course," Smothers said. "That we have been prudent in how we spend money. That we have recognized the needs of this community and tried to balance the ability to serve those needs with the impact on the tax rate. That really does go to the heart of what had been the major theme of the Williard-Lovejoy-[Cynthia] Davis campaign. I think people also recognize that there was going to be a significant change in turnover and some prior experience would be an asset for anyone who ran."
Britt Moore said he wasn't sure until the end that he would win the other at-large seat.
"I think plurality votes are certainly hard to call," he said. "But I feel like I worked really hard and put in a strong ground effort and was certainly lucky to come in with one of the two at-large positions."
Britt Moore, like Smothers, said Guilford County's 2012 property tax revaluation made the campaign difficult for incumbents.
"It is a hard thing to explain," he said. "I certainly understand the angst and dislike of tax increases. I share them. We've got to find a way to increase the tax base. We're going to continue to find challenges to the revenue streams that make government run. We've always been dependent on property taxes, and we need to look at that. It's got to come from the private sector or we're going to have to look at the services we provide."
The race to succeed Sims in Ward 1, like the at-large race, was a five-candidate dogfight.
Jeff Golden, who unsuccessfully tried to unseat Sims in 2010, took the seat with 27 percent of the vote. He beat Orrick Quick, who had 25 percent; former at-large Councilmember Mary Lou Blakeney, who had 22 percent; Larry Diggs, who had 14 percent; and Willie Davis, who had 13 percent.
Golden said he considered Blakeney his main opponent until shortly before the election....continued on page 2