Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Anti-Toll Candidates Achieve Crushing Victory in Huntersville, make gains in other North Meck Towns

In what will likely be one of the more memorable and important victories in North Mecklenburg local politics for a long, long time, anti-toll candidates swept to victory across North Mecklenburg towns Tuesday night.

Ground zero for the blitz was Huntersville's campaign for Mayor.  In the end, Mayor Jill Swain was unseated by challenger John Aneralla in a crushing victory.  Based on the unofficial totals, Aneralla won every single precinct in the town while cruising to the finish line with nearly 59% of the vote.

However, this victory was matched in its thoroughness by the victory of anti-toll candidates in the race for Town Board.  The top three vote getters were long-time anti toll incumbents Danny Phillips and Rob Kidwell coming in 1st and 3rd along with newcomer Mark Gibbons who came in 2nd.

In addition to Swain's loss, toll supporters and incumbents Sarah McAulay and Jeff Neely also lost reelection.  Melissa Bales who had been the top vote getter last time around fell to sixth place.

To give a sense of how ferocious the anti toll zeal was, between Swain and McAulay nearly four decades of combined electoral experience was cast aside.

These two officials became the focus of the anti toll movement due to their support of the I77 HOT lanes over the past three years with Mayor Swain working with the other local mayors to save the project on a number of occasions and McAulay serving as the Chair of the CRTPO as that body relentlessly pushed the project forward.

But the success of anti-toll candidates was not confined to Huntersville.

In Cornelius, Dr Mike Miltich gained the fifth seat on the Cornelius Board by a comfortable margin after missing in a close contest in 2013.  Also, in Davidson where all incumbents were reelected, the two who had been the most supportive of the HOT lanes project, Rodney Graham and Brian Jenest, came in fourth and fifth this time.

While all of the candidates from the anti-toll camp ran good solid campaigns, it was in Huntersville where the power of the grassroots activism behind the larger movement was really seen.  Activists from across the region focused on the Huntersville races putting in time, money, and effort to get candidates elected.

Over the course of this campaign, it became as much about seeking transparent and responsive government as much as it was about tolls.  If that effort and organization can remain in in tact it could have a lasting impact on politics in North Mecklenburg for years to come.

In the end, those efforts resulted in a resounding set of victories.

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