Allen Joines is already Winston-Salem's longest-serving mayor, and as he heads into the final turn of his fifth term, only Republican Kris McCann stands in the way of his getting a sixth.
McCann's got an uphill climb: Not only do the city's demographics favor Democrat Joines, but Joines has a campaign war chest that dwarfs that of his opponent.
At age 73, Joines is not about to declare that he is going for his last term.
"You never want to start a term saying it is your last," Joines said. "I feel comfortable, the citizens know me, and know that I am sincere and try to be a mayor for all the folks. We will just continue to present our case and hope that the citizens will find that appealing."
McCann says if he is elected mayor, he will take a practical approach that looks to solve problems and not drag out debate.
"The council makes a problem that should be solved in a month or two drag out over six months," McCann said. "I think the tactics of our council are that if we drag it out long enough, they will go away and we won't have to deal with them."
Joines' most recent campaign report, filed Oct. 20, showed that in the current election cycle Joines had raised about $118,000 and spent almost $97,000 on his re-election effort.
By contrast, McCann spent only $21.29 through July 4. A more recent report was not available from his campaign. Worth noting is that Joines did face a spring primary in which he faced his strongest-ever challenge since becoming mayor in 2001. Democratic primary challenger JoAnne Allen scored 31% of the vote on March 3.
During the campaign, McCann charged that Joines improperly spent $200 from city funds to pay for an advertisement in the program for a meeting of the Democratic Women of North Carolina held here in 2017. The money came from the mayor's salary, which he declines and is put aside by the city for charitable contributions and the like that the mayor wants to support.
McCann complained that he could not get prosecutors interested in taking the case. Joines argued that the contribution paid for a "welcome" letter of the type he's done for other convention groups.
Joines, who was a deputy city manager in Winston-Salem before running for mayor, is also president of the Winston-Salem Alliance, a nonprofit group formed to promote business development in the city.
The Alliance has a board of directors that reads like a who's who of Winston-Salem's business elite. Though he's been often accused of manipulating city affairs to benefit the members of the Alliance, Joines has long rejected those charges.
On the other hand, Joines has never shied away from enlisting those same business leaders to support city initiatives. As he tries for a new term, Joines said he will be focusing on job growth, affordable housing and reducing poverty.
"Obviously we have a short-term priority to get through the COVID-19 situation and manage the health and safety of the community," Joines said. "As we start to reopen, I want to get our job-creation numbers going again."
Joines said that the city had the best record for job creation in the Southeast by a measure taken in the 2017-19 period, and he wants to bring that growth rate back.
McCann said he would focus on trying to bring back manufacturing jobs to Winston-Salem.
"The things the city should look after are the streets and infrastructure and the things that will bring business here," McCann said. "The jobs we get are mostly white-collar jobs. Manufacturing jobs used to be the base. I realize that Joines has a lot of rich friends that he deals with. My goal is to look after the citizens of the community and not my rich friends. Recruiting manufacturing jobs would be very high on the list, but let's do the things that would attract those type of people."
Whether it comes to street paving or brush collection, McCann says the city has failed to do the job it once did.
When protests broke out in Winston-Salem and elsewhere following the death of George Floyd, McCann found himself in hot water over Facebook posts that some labeled racist. Although McCann denies that charge, he faults the city for not cracking down on protesters when they blocked Interstate 40.
During Joines' current term, the city lost what the mayor calls some "bragging rights" when BB&T and SunTrust banks announced a merger and head office relocation to Charlotte, followed by another move to Charlotte with the combination of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Atrium Health.
"We hated to lose BB&T, but in the long run we will have more jobs," Joines said. "The Wake Forest-Atrium merger is going to be majorly beneficial to the city in terms of new jobs. We have to make sure we create an environment that encourages corporate growth here."
Joines believes the city has done just that, and said the city's profile includes low tax and utility costs, along with other factors that can make the city attractive to businesses.
"The future is tied to the innovation and entrepreneurial system," Joines said. "There are a number of areas we can be competitive in."
McCann said politicians want to talk about problems rather than solve them.
"We talk about systemic racism in our city," McCann said. "Joines has been mayor for 19 years: Why do we still have the same problem? That is where you have to sit down, put people together, figure out what is wrong and how to address it. The first step ever to fix the problem is to identify the problem."
McCann said that while many Black residents of the city have made progress, there are too many people who are poor.
"We have people of all colors that don't do as well as I would like to see them do," he said. "I would like to see them having a good and decent life."
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