Photo finish

Close call: Incumbent Jan Davis kept an eye on the results on Nov. 8; in the unofficial talley, he came out just 40 votes ahead of Lael Gray. (photos by Max Cooper)

In case you missed our online coverage of the Asheville City Council race last week, here are the highlights as reported by David Forbes, Jake Frankel and Caitlin Byrd.

The Nov. 8 Asheville City Council election turned into a nail biter: In the fight for three open seats, Marc Hunt garnered the most votes (8,725), and Chris Pelly proved that the third time's the charm, finishing second with 8,182 votes.

But incumbent Jan Davis squeaked past Lael Gray by a mere 40 votes, meaning a recount is likely.

Decision time: Lael Gray

"Wow, what an amazing race," Gray told Xpress. "Watching the results come in was a really intense moment."

Gray said she’d wait for the official tally, which will include absentee and provisional ballots, before deciding her next move. "If the result remains this close, the responsible thing is to call for a recount."

“I'm feeling really positive,” she said, adding, “I still look forward to working for the city."

The front-runner: Marc Hunt

On election night, Hunt said: "I feel a great sense of duty. One thing I’ve really come to appreciate from talking with voters in this community is that a single vote is a valued, treasured thing. When people invest those in me to be a leader and do the right things for the community, there’s an obligation that comes with that, and I take that very seriously."

He added: "It will be great to shift gears. The campaign has been a challenge and a lot of fun, but now the real work, the most important work, starts. I'm ready and I'm energized."

Hunt said he’ll donate the roughly $200 left in his campaign budget to the Western North Carolina Alliance, a local nonprofit, for its Smart Growth Coalition and to the Asheville City Schools Foundation.

A close race: Jan Davis

“I'm very pleased with the results, but it was a difficult race," said Davis. “I feel like it’s important to maintain somebody on Council like myself who has a small-business mindset.”

The incumbent also praised the quality of the candidates.

“It’s been a close election with a lot of good candidates, and Lael Gray is certainly a worthy candidate, but I am happy to have edged her out.”

Odd man out: Mark Cates

The lone Republican in the race, Cates said his campaign's focus on jobs helped drive the debate, despite his fifth-place showing at the polls.

"Overall, this election showed that the candidates were able to learn about Asheville's needs versus Asheville's wants. The progressives started their campaigns talking about sidewalks and greenways, and by the end of it they were talking about jobs," he maintained. "I'm sure all of Asheville hopes the new progressive Council members and the current Council members work to support Jan Davis in his efforts to bring jobs back to Asheville."

The infrastructure candidate: Saul Chase

Despite his last-place finish, Chase said his candidacy focused much-needed attention on his main issue: fixing (and adding) sidewalks.

“If I had just gone to every other City Council meeting and stood up and talked about the same issues week after week, it wouldn’t have had the same effect as actually running for City Council," Chase asserted, adding, "I’m glad I did it.”

At last: Chris Pelly

Finally claiming a seat on City Council after two unsuccessful bids, Pelly said, "I'm humbled and honored voters have chosen me." He believes his campaign theme, "Neighborhoods United," and with his experience with development issues played key roles in his solid win.

Asked about his top priority, Pelly replied, "Trying to represent the public interest."

— Staff reporters David Forbes and Jake Frankel can be reached at 251-1333. UNCA senior Caitlin Byrd is new media editor for The Blue Banner, the school’s newspaper.

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