Chances are, there will be three new faces on the Fayetteville City Council on Aug. 11, when the winners of last week’s election are sworn in at Seabrook Auditorium at Fayetteville State University.
There could be four new faces, contingent on Friday’s 11 a.m. canvass by the Cumberland County Board of Elections Office to certify the July 26 election for mayor and nine district council members.
The lingering question is who will represent District 3, where challenger Mario Benavente, according to unofficial returns, defeated incumbent Antonio Jones. Benavente, 32, garnered 1,012 votes, or just under 49.9%. Jones, 48, had 1,006 votes, or 49.61%. There were 10 write-ins, which is 0.49% of votes cast.
At 5 p.m. Thursday, the Board of Elections will consider the remaining absentee and provisional ballots and add those that are approved to the count, says board member Linda Devore. Other board members are Chairwoman Helen L. Nelson, Irene Grimes, James H. Baker and Billy R. King.
“We have about 50 absentees and 30 provisions, but certainly not all are in the D3 race, and we will likely be unable to accept many of the provisionals,” Devore says. “When we meet Friday at 11 for canvass, we will certify results of all of the ballots received and counted for the election.”
Jones has until 5 p.m. Monday, Devore says, to ask for a recount if Benavente leads by fewer than 1% of all ballots cast. Devore says that seems likely.
“The last municipal recount I recall was in the 2019 Spring Lake alderman race, when the fifth seat was decided by only one vote,” Devore says. “James Christian lost his seat, and while the recount changed two votes, (there was one) each way, so the final margin remained unchanged.”
Other outcomes appear secure
Aside from the Benavente-Jones outcome, canvass or not, other municipal results appear secure for winners based on the unofficial results.
Mayor Mitch Colvin, 49, was a clear winner of his third consecutive term as mayor, defeating 60-year-old challenger Freddie de la Cruz. Colvin had 9,253 votes, or about 63%, according to unofficial returns, while de la Cruz had 5,452, or 37%.
Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Keefe Jensen had 807 votes, or about 52%, in her District 1 race with challenger Alex Rodriguez, who had 561 votes, or 36%. William Milbourne III, a write-in candidate, had 185 votes, or 12%.
Shakeyla Ingram had 749 votes, or about 48%, in her District 2 race with former Councilman Tyrone Williams. Williams had 653 votes, or 42%. Janene Ackles received 74 votes, or about 5%. There were 70 other write-in votes.
D.J. Haire was an easy winner for his 11th term representing District 4 with 1,232 votes, or about 83%. Challenger Thomas C. Greene had 237 votes, or 16%.
Johnny Dawkins had 1,643 votes, or 68%, in District 5. Challenger Frederick LaChance III received 750 votes for 31%.
Derrick Thompson had 962 votes, or about 61%, to 619 votes, or 39%, for Peter Pappas in the District 6 race for a seat vacated by incumbent Chris Davis.
Challenger Brenda McNair received 679 votes, or 51%, to defeat District 7 incumbent Larry Wright, who had 656 votes, or 49%.
Courtney Banks-McLaughlin, with 748 votes or 79% in District 8, soundly defeated challenger Michael Pinkston, who had 196 votes, or 21%.
Deno Hondros received 911 votes, or 53%, to upset incumbent Yvonne Kinston in the District 9 race. Kinston had 804 votes, or 47%.
For the most part, the mayoral outcome is a done deal, and so are seven of nine council races. But Larry Wright, 64, may have a faint hope of retaining his District 7 seat, trailing Brenda McNair, 60, by just 23 votes.
Keep in mind there are about 30 absentee votes and about 50 provisional votes to be counted, Devore says. And they could be scattered throughout the districts. As for those provisional votes: Who knows for sure?
“Provisionals are usually when the voter is not registered to vote in the jurisdiction,” Devore says. “In this case, some folks from the county or another municipality show up to vote in the city election, or in some cases a new voter wants to register and vote on Election Day, not realizing that you can only do that during early voting. In some cases, the voter registered by mail but not in time.”
As for Antonio Jones, look for him to call for a recount if the final canvass reveals his race with Mario Benavente still is close.
“First, I sincerely thank everyone for coming out to vote, regardless of who they voted for,” Jones said Monday. “That is just who I am personally. I also am grateful for the solid and consistent support base that continued and continues to support me.
“As of now, I will be requesting a recount, pending, of course, the final canvass results.
“Regardless, when I said that family is always first and I was now in a place where I was able to commit even more time to community things, I meant just that,” Jones says. “I’ve always done things in the community, and when you are in certain positions some of those things have to shift and may look a little different than what was being done before simply because of the demands associated with that position. But my servant heart never changes. Nevertheless, Dr. J is here to stay in whatever capacity that my personal Lord and savior desires me to serve in. And that is what I will accept and always be OK with, no matter what.”
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-624-1961.