WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — It was never close for incumbent Mayor Allen Joines on Tuesday as the mayor cruised to an easy win in the Democratic primary over Gardenia Henley, his challenger.
Joines grabbed 84 percent of the vote when the early-voting totals were posted shortly after the polls closed at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, and he never looked back.
According to complete but unofficial returns, Joines finished with 88.5 percent of the vote, gaining 8,799 votes to 1,147 for Henley.
Joines carried all 75 precincts. Turnout was 6.4 percent.
“We are really thrilled that the voters seemed to be supportive of what we have been trying to do for the last several years,” Joines said Tuesday night after the numbers were all in. “We are going to continue to push for job development in the community and push for the social issues we need to work on as well.”
Joines campaigned on a theme of successfully bringing Winston-Salem through the severe downturn of the Great Recession. He said the city has not only experienced net job growth, but was poised to do even better with the continued development of the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, a research park rising from the city’s district of abandoned tobacco factories.
Henley gamely challenged the mayor and tried to suggest to voters that the mayor has a conflict of interest because he also heads the pro-business group, the Winston-Salem Alliance.
In a series of what she called the Henley Reports posted online, Henley sought to portray the city as needing better leadership, and stressed her experience as a federal auditor capable of rooting out waste and mismanagement.
Joines brushed off Henley’s charges early during the campaign, calling them groundless and a retread from previous campaigns.
“When you have someone making ridiculous attacks, the only thing to do is to focus on your own record,” Joines said. “We never really focused on the negativity of it. The only thing we could do was run on what we have been able to do for four years.”
The finish for Joines was broad and deep, leaving Henley with no pockets of significant support. Starting with a large margin after the counting of absentee ballots and one-stop votes, Joines captured nearly 90 percent of the votes that were cast Tuesday by people going out to their polling places.
Henley could not be reached Tuesday night.
Joines said that he hopes the city can continue tackling poverty by providing training for homeownership, and that the city’s program to combat homelessness must go forward as well.
Joines will be on the November ballot with Republican James Knox, who announced at one point this summer he would drop out of the race, and then said he would be leaving his name on the ballot but possibly conducting no active campaign.
Henley’s challenge was the first Joines had faced at the polls since his first run for the office of mayor, but it turned out there was no rust in the Joines’ campaign.
“We never wanted to take the voters for granted,” Joines said. “We made a concerted effort to get our message out. I was honored to have a broad base of support.”
View more primary election results at the Winston-Salem Journal.