Cindy Perry and James Vose unseat incumbents in Pittsboro mayor, commissioner races

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PITTSBORO — Former Mayor Cindy Perry and political newcomer James Vose will join incumbent Pamela Baldwin on Pittsboro’s governing body after winning seats in Tuesday’s election.

Perry unseated incumbent Mayor Jim Nass in that race and Baldwin and Vose were the top vote-getters for commissioner as long-time board member Michael Fiocco — targeted in negative mailers and attacks on the “Chatlist,” a local bulletin-board type email list — finished a distant third.

Perry will return to the office of mayor after choosing to not seek reelection in 2019, winning by a 575-303 margin.

In the commission board race, Baldwin and Vose received 562 and 560 votes respectively, with Fiocco receiving 400. The top two vote-getters earned four-year terms. 

The races were nonpartisan.

Voters in Goldston elected new mayor Jonathan Hensley, who ran unopposed. The other candidates on Goldston’s ballot — each unopposed — won seats, including Banks Burke for commissioner at large, Wayne Woody won in Ward 1 of Goldston and Lynn Gaines won Ward 3. 

Preliminary date from the Chatham County Board of Elections pegged voter turnout in the off-year election at 23.1%.

Throughout the day

On the morning of Election Day, most of the candidates in the two contested races were there greeting voters in the early chill on Tuesday morning.

Nass, Perry and Vose were both on hand campaigning and chatting with voters and supporters. Nass was seeking a second two-year term; Perry, who served from 2015-19 and endorsed Nass two years ago, was seeking to regain the seat.

Nass told the News + Record Tuesday morning before results were in he believed more people would come out to vote on Election Day rather than during early voting. 

“Some people like to vote on actual Election Day, and I think that is great because we just hope that everyone who is eligible to vote will do so,” he said. 

Perry, who spent a lot of time at the Ag Center during the early voting period, said traffic on Tuesday was higher than during early voting.

She said the slow turnout during early voting discouraged her for a variety of reasons. 

“There are issues on the table, and I felt that perhaps the low turnout was in the fact people did not have interest in those issues, and I don’t believe that is true,” she said. “I do think people are very intensely interested in these issues, and I am just very pleased that within the first hour this morning, we had about as many people as we had the first day of early voting.”

Fiocco said he’s typically seen more people show up on Election Day to vote rather than during the early voting period.

“There has been a really heavy turnout during the day,” he said. “That has been true in the past, but I think COVID has changed things in ways I don’t understand yet.”

Vose said he felt confident going into Election Day with the work he had done to promote his candidacy. 

“I feel like a lot of early voters have given their vocal support, and that feels good going into today,” he said. “I feel like we’ve done out work, knocked on our doors and done the work needed.”

The Pittsboro races generated negative campaigning from local political action committees, including one mailer targeting Fiocco and his position as a “Land Use Manager” for a development company. 

Fiocco said he hopes voters will see past the campaign ads and vote on what they believe is best for Pittsboro. 

“I know there has been some negative statements, and I hope people are able to discern between fact and fiction,” he said. 

Each of the candidates said that win or lose, they believed it was important for residents to use their voices at the ballot box. Perry said local government makes the most important and impactful decisions for the community in which people live. 

“The municipal election is the one closest to the people,” she said. “It has the greatest impact on our everyday lives.”

Vose said he wanted to use this election to help start a conversation about the importance of residents voice their concerns about issues that affect Pittsboro. 

“I want to see Pittsboro show up,” he said. “Whether it goes my way or not, I want to see the pot stirred up enough that people are showing up, doing some research and casting votes that make sense to them.”

What’s next?

Perry said in an interview at her election party at Virlie’s in downtown Pittsboro she is thankful to the residents of Pittsboro for believing in her leadership and ecstatic about returning to the mayoral office. 

“I think it’s a testimony to the citizens of Pittsboro that they saw the kind of leadership that I had given should be given again,” she said. “I am just absolutely thrilled.”

Vose celebrated his victory at City Tap on Tuesday evening with his supporters and friends.

“I’m just elated,” he said. “I feel like a whole lot of work has paid off.”

Perry commented on Vose’s victory, saying she believes having a new face on the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners will bring new attention to issues the board hasn’t been adequately addressing. 

“It’s interesting because people need to give a lot of feedback so we can understand what the people want,” she said. “People voted completely for him, and that’s going to be a very good reason to look highly at this race and see what happens.”

Vose said he looked to Perry as a mentor throughout his campaign, saying he flourished with her advice.

“I first met her at Davenport’s Coffee Shop, and she had a lot of advice for me and a lot of positive words,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better person to get advice from.” 

Vose also said he was thankful for the civility his opponent, Fiocco, brought to the table and for his over 12 years of public service to Pittsboro.

“The third person (Fiocco) I think does a good job,” he said. “I think he has done a good job for a very, very long time.”

Nass and Fiocco will finish their terms in December. 

“I thank everyone who supported me and ask everyone to support Cindy and the new board completely,” he said. “It was an honor and a privilege to serve the residents of our beloved town.”

So what’s next for Perry and Vose?

Perry said she wants to focus on finding a solution to the water pollution issue Pittsboro faces and move to fix it once and for all. 

“I hope to bring some movement together as a community,” she said. “I want to bring movement back to some of these issues that have gotten stuck, and for sure we have got to do something about the water.”

For Vose, he wants to serve as a source of transparency for the community, as well as make sure the public has the chance to voice their concerns to a member of the board. 

“I hope to have at least bi-weekly office hours Zoom meetings for anybody that wants to talk,” he said. “I think people need an easy way to access us, and I hope I can do a really good job and keep the doors open.”

Baldwin did not respond to requests for comment.

Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at theeden@chathamnr.com.

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