Innovate Raleigh’s meet-the-candidates forum was held Tuesday, August 15th at Pendo’s Fayetteville Street office. The six potential mayors spoke in unison about one theme: Raleigh is at a crossroads.

Caroline Sullivan, a former Wake County commissioner, said residents were at a “crossroads for our future.” Justin Sutton, a 30-year-old procurement attorney for the state of North Carolina, called it a “critical phase in Raleigh’s history.” And Candidate Zainab Baloch, activist and former Raleigh City Council candidate, described Raleigh as being in a “key position” to “be a role model for what future tech cities look like.”

Interestingly, while buzzwords like “organic growth” and “tech city” popped up, there was no one candidate that stood out at this event as championing resources for entrepreneurs at this “crossroads” (despite the event being held at the office of the fastest-growing tech company in Raleigh, one that started as a single person’s venture).

Candidates did focus on traits they felt were important for voters to consider.

“The thing this council this city most needs is leadership,” said Charles Francis, former mayoral candidate and Raleigh attorney, describing the mayor Raleigh needs today as a “leader who can bring consensus.”

Candidates for Raleigh Mayor at Innovate Raleigh event

Mary Ann Baldwin, former Raleigh City Council member, did mention her role in founding Innovate Raleigh. She said voters needed to consider “leadership, experience, vision” and who can best “move us forward in a way that brings compassion, innovation, and progress to all of us.”

Candidates for Raleigh Mayor at Innovate Raleigh event

George Knott, musician and long-time Raleigh resident, spoke about the changes he’s seen in the city in the past few decades, saying to voters, “Let’s figure out a way that we can grow organically, not accelerated.”

The candidates’ most-discussed issues were affordable housing, transportation, and equity and inclusion. While there was a lot of agreement on what the issues were, candidates disagreed on the right approaches to our city’s growth and opportunity. Candidates only have a few minutes to speak and urged citizens to view their websites for full descriptions of their plans and approaches.

The session also hosted the city’s City Council district and at-large candidates.

“It is worrisome that less than 15% of Raleigh’s voting age population voted during the last municipal election,” said Bridget Harrington, Executive Director of Innovate Raleigh. “We thought it was important to introduce the candidates to the innovation community in advance of this important election on Oct 8. We are grateful that nearly all of the 27 candidates attended the event to share their ideas for the future of Raleigh.”

Innovate Raleigh is also publishing candidates’ responses to a crowdsourced list of questions; see more here:

Raleigh residents have until September 13th to register to vote. Election day for the seven new city council members and Raleigh’s new mayor will be held October 8th, with early voting dates from September 18th to October 4th.

HQ Raleigh is also in talks to host another candidate forum soon, giving Raleigh residents another chance to hear from candidates before the October 8th election.

HQ Raleigh will host meet candidates event this fall

The information session was hosted by Innovate Raleigh, the not-for-profit 501(c)3 charitable organization focused on making the Raleigh area the top center for innovation and entrepreneurship in the nation. The 8th Annual Innovate Raleigh Summit will be hosted on October 3rd, 2019 in Downtown Raleigh;

The session was hosted in Pendo’s current home – their office space in the Wells Fargo tower on Fayetteville Street. Pendo has announced plans to expand their Raleigh workforce and build a new office tower in downtown Raleigh.

More information on the mayoral candidates and their platforms:

Candidates for Raleigh Mayor at Innovate Raleigh event

This post was also published on LinkedIn.