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Raleigh’s election this year recycles the results from 30 years ago.

In 1977, a pro-neighborhood, anti-developer grassroots rebellion elected little-old-lady-in-tennis-shoes Isabella Cannon over the incumbent mayor, Jyles Coggins, a builder known as “bomber Jack.”

Two years later, Smedes York rode to the rescue of the real estate industry. He ran against Cannon and won. Then, through the 80s, York and Avery Upchurch presided over an Era of Good Feelings in Raleigh politics.

Tom Fetzer rocked the boat – and won the Mayor’s race – in 1993. He led a North Raleigh anti-tax rebellion against the downtown establishment. Fetzer and, for one term, Paul Coble rode that wave through the 90s.

But Raleigh became more Democratic in registration. Coble, the nephew of Jesse Helms, became more polarizing. That led to Charles Meeker’s election as Mayor.

Since then, there has been a rough balance between pro-growth and anti-growth factions on the council. But the ground was shifting.

Two years ago, John Odom lost a council race – and Tommy Craven nearly did – because of anti-developer feeling.

This year, the slow-growth forces took over. Just like in 1977.

Typically, these political pendulums swing too far. Witness Glen Lang in Cary. Or Newt Gingrich in Washington. The victors overplay their hand, then pay the price in the next election.

So now there are two questions:

  • Will the Meeker Majority outrun its mandate?

  • Will the development community mount a comeback?

Stay tuned. It will make for wonderful political theater.

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