Challenger John Aneralla unseated Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain in Tuesday’s non-partisan mayoral race that many saw as a referendum on the proposed widening of Interstate 77 with controversial toll lanes.
With all precincts reporting, Aneralla, a former Mecklenburg Republican Party chairman, had 58.91 percent of the vote to 40.95 percent for Swain, trying to win a fourth term.
In other races, Matthews incumbent Mayor Jim Taylor easily won a new term over challenger Robert Powell III. Incumbent mayors Chuck Travis of Cornelius, John Woods of Davidson and Jack Edwards all ran unopposed.
Huntersville’s mayoral and town board races were being closely watched largely because of the toll lane issue.
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Aneralla, who unsuccessfully ran for state senate in 2012, was an early opponent of the project that would add 26 miles of toll lanes from Charlotte into southern Iredell County. Swain didn’t openly support the project, but apologized to state officials for some of the anti-toll rhetoric delivered by some Huntersville town board members.
Newspaper ads and campaign literature clumped together Aneralla and other town board candidates against the toll lane project. Two of those town board candidates, incumbents Danny Phillips and Rob Kidwell, finished first and third in the voting. Voters unseated incumbents and toll-lane supporters Sarah McAulay and Jeff Neely.
The anti-toll advocates said their victories should send a message to state legislators and officials.
“For starters, it’s awfully tough to unseat an incumbent,” said Mecklenburg commissioner Jim Puckett, a vocal toll-lane opponent who barely lost to Swain for mayor two years ago. “But if a very popular mayor who is a woman is unseated, then clearly the toll lanes were a big influencer.
“It sends a clear message we think this project is a bad mistake. I would think Gov. McCrory would be inclined to pay attention.”