Three Cary Town Council members sought re-election Tuesday. Only one of them was a clear winner by day’s end.
Jennifer Robinson, who was first elected to the Town Council in 1999, won her District A seat with more than 75% of the vote.
Incumbents Jack Smith and Ed Yerha, however, both trailed challengers, though the first-place finishers in each of those races failed to clear the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
Now both second-place finishers are calling for a runoff, set for July 26.
Cary At-Large: Three Cary residents hoped to fill one of the council’s two at-large seats. Yerha was looking to defend his seat against challengers Ken George and Carissa Johnson.
Johnson, 49, a product marketing manager at Axcient, beat George and Yerha, according to unofficial results. While Johnson led by more than 1,000 votes, she didn’t clear the 50% threshold.
“I expected a runoff, and I am ready for it,” she said Tuesday night, adding she was thrilled and humbled by the support she received as a first-time candidate.
George, the second-place finisher, was picking up signs at about 11:20 p.m. but said he hadn’t decided whether to call for a runoff.
Come Wednesday morning he was more sure.
“While we had hoped for a outright win last night, it’s clear that the voters responded to my message of working together to address our most pressing challenges like affordable housing and providing more parks and open space for Cary,” George said in a statement. “I’m committed to finishing this race for all of our citizens, and that’s why I’m calling for a run-off election.”
The last time there was a runoff in Cary was in 2015, also involving George. Then he was the first place winner who ultimately won in the run-off election to serve a four-year term for the District D seat. He was defeated in 2019.
District A: The district covers a middle portion of the town, surrounding Bond Park and bumping up against Morrisville. Robinson, who has served on the board since 1999, was challenged for the seat by Chase McGrath.
Robinson won with more than 75% of the vote, according to unofficial results. She didn’t respond to a phone call from The News & Observer late Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
District C: The district covers the southern part of the Wake County town and was the busiest of the town’s three races. Five people, including long-time incumbent Smith, sought the seat.
Smith, who was first elected in 1989, at first held a slight lead over his four challengers — Mary Insprucker, George McDowell, Renee Miller and Amanda Murphy — before ultimately falling to second.
Miller, 57, took first place with just 45 votes more than Smith. But she also failed to clear the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
“We are very pleased to have done so well, and we look forward to finishing this up in July,” Miller said.
Smith was pleased with the results and said with five candidates he expected there to be a runoff.
“I think the runoff is going to be about local issues versus national issues,” he said. “And we are going to get our message out that the reason why we are the safest places in the country, with the best quality of life is because we focus on local issues. We are going to get that message out, and we think with my track record of accomplishments we are going to carry the day.”
There are seven members of the board that govern North Carolina’s seventh-largest municipality. The members are elected to four-year, staggered terms.
Why are Cary’s elections in May?
A Cary election in May is not the norm.
The election would have normally taken place last fall with Wake County’s other municipal election.
But the U.S. Census Bureau announced last year it wouldn’t be able to release district data under its normal schedule, causing cities that elect members by district, including Cary, to delay their elections.
Regardless, the 2023 election will continue as schedule for the other seats on the board.