Vaughan, Perkins Square Off in Greensboro Mayor's Race
Robbie Perkins is running for re-election as mayor of Greensboro for the first time since he defeated former one-term mayor Bill Knight two years ago. But his campaign has been plagued by reports of his own personal financial struggles. His challenger, long-time council-member Nancy Barakat Vaughan, finished ten points ahead of Perkins in the Oct. 8 primary. A third candidate, George Hartzman, was eliminated in that primary.
Both candidates said jobs and economic development top their lists of priorities. They also expressed concern that income levels in Greensboro have not recovered since the start of the recession. Vaughan said she’s disappointed that a large part of job recovery in Greensboro has disproportionally come from low-paying service-sector jobs.
"We need to make sure our residents will have jobs that will allow them to buy houses and cars and raise families - living wages," she said. "We really need to focus on what we can do to raise the per-capita income."
Perkins said he would focus on creating jobs through logistics and high-tech sectors such as nanotechnology.
"We got gutted pretty bad in 2000 with textiles, tobacco and furniture going off-shore," he said. "We're rebuilding that economic base now in the Triad, principally around logistics and aviation-related businesses."
Vaughan and Perkins differed when asked to describe their own approaches to leadership. Perkins said leadership starts with a good plan.
"I'm a kind of tell-it-like-it-is leader," he said. "I have a plan, and I articulate that plan, clearly define it, and then execute it. And we've done that during the last two years."
Vaughan stressed her attention to detail.
"I am I believe more of a hands-on leader," she said. "I think it's very important to do your own homework to kind of dig-in. I believe good ideas are very important. But big ideas are the easy part. The devil is in the details, and I'm a very detail-oriented person."
Voter turnout will likely change the dynamic of general election compared to the primary. About 8 percent of eligible voters took part in the Oct. 8 primary. But the general election turnout is typically higher. In 2011, for example, the turnout at city precincts was about 20 percent. Vaughan said she’s cautiously optimistic about Tuesday, saying she spent very little money on the primary and now is investing in the final push.
"An 8.5 percent voter turnout is really pretty abysmal," she said. "I'm hopeful we're going to at least double that. When the turnout changes, really anything can happen."
Perkins said despite coming in second, he’s not feeling like an underdog. He said his campaign has stepped up the effort since the primary.
"I think the voter turnout was so pitiful in the primary that it didn't tell us a whole lot about this final election," he said. "What I would hope to see is that the voters of Greensboro are energized and enthusiastic about what we've done the last two years."
Should Vaughan prevail, she would be Greensboro’s fourth new mayor in the last eight years. Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.