N.C. Swing County Could Help Decide Fall Election

Steve Inskeep talks to Harold Weinbrecht, Democratic mayor of Cary, N.C., about voters concerns there. Cary is in Wake County, a swing county in North Carolina, which could decide which way the state goes in November. Cary is white, affluent and highly educated.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

During the political conventions we've been checking in with mayors of towns in swing areas of this country. And today we'll meet the mayor of Cary, North Carolina. His town is in Wake County, which voted for President Bush in 2004 and then President Obama in 2008.

INSKEEP: The mayor of Cary says fewer than five percent of town residents are natives. There's a joke in Cary, that the town name, Cary, stands for Containment Area for Relocated Yankees. Mayor Harold Weinbrecht holds an officially nonpartisan job, meaning candidates do not run under party labels there, although the mayor is a Democrat.

Describe it for someone who's never been there. Should we imagine suburban subdivisions and shopping malls and that sort of thing?

MAYOR HAROLD WEINBRECHT: Yes. Cary is one of the most desirable places to live in the United States, according to Money magazine. There's a lot of tree-lined streets, well-manicured office parks. We're the safest city in the southeast. We have a population that is two-thirds college graduates. We have an average family income of around $90,000 a year, which is well above the state average. We have North American headquarters of several corporations, such as Siemens, Deutsche Bank, Lord Corporation. I think Epic Games has their headquarters here as well.

INSKEEP: How would you describe Cary politically if you thought about voter registration or other signs?

WEINBRECHT: Well, it's really interesting. Our population is diverse and we're politically diverse. I think that we're probably equally divided as far as partisan politics goes. I know even on the town council we have three Republicans, three Democrats, and one unaffiliated. So that's a perfect mirror, I believe, of what the partisan politics is in Cary.

INSKEEP: Let me test your memory a little bit here. You're in a county that went for President Bush in 2004, and then flipped to the Democratic side and went for President Obama in 2008. Do you remember much of the local political discussion and what dominated it in each of those years?

WEINBRECHT: One thing I saw in 2008, which I'd not seen before, was the energy in the youth. And if you look at the math of where Obama won in North Carolina in 2008, it's centered around a lot of the education and municipal areas. Charlotte, Raleigh, Wilmington, Ashville, all went for Obama, whereas most of the state did not.

INSKEEP: How do things feel this time around?

WEINBRECHT: I think it's a little bit different this time. I see energy on both sides. But I see and hear comments from people that they're tired of the negative ads. And they're ready for this to move on. I think there's less people that have not made up their mind. It's a very divisive election. People are very divided.

INSKEEP: You feel that there are fewer political discussions than there were four years. It's just too toxic to bring up.

WEINBRECHT: I really believe that. I know you're not supposed to bring it up in the workplace, but I don't hear anyone talking about politics in the workplace. They talk about football, basketball, you name it. But they don't talk about politics at all. And I remember a lot of discussions in 2008, and I'm not hearing it this time around.

INSKEEP: How heavy is the advertising on local TV?

WEINBRECHT: It's been pretty heavy. I know even from my wife, she'll DVR things just to get around the negative advertisements. She can't stand to watch it. So she'll delay 20, 30 minutes just so she can get around the ads. So it gets exhausting after a while.

INSKEEP: Mayor Weinbrecht, thanks very much.

WEINBRECHT: Thank you very much for having me.

INSKEEP: Harold Weinbrecht is the mayor of Cary, North Carolina, one of several mayors we're checking in with as the political conventions continue.

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