Entering Tuesday's Raleigh mayoral contest, some election-watchers wondered whether Nancy McFarlane would need a runoff to settle her race with Billie Redmond, considered the top challenger to McFarlane in a three-person field.
The answer turned out to be a resounding "no."
With 61 percent of the vote, McFarlane scored a decisive victory against Redmond (29 percent) and Randall Williams (9 percent) in the city's first open mayoral race in a decade.
Several factors worked in McFarlane's favor, analysts and staffers from both campaigns said.
Here's a look at three:
The school board surge: Unhappy with the direction of the Wake County school system, local Democrats mounted an extensive grassroots effort to recapture control of the school board.
The enthusiasm rippled wide enough to boost McFarlane, who ran as an independent but was endorsed by the Democratic Party.
"People were really motivated to vote in the school board races," said Andy Taylor, a political scientist at N.C. State University. "While they were there, they voted for her."
Jim Baldwin, Redmond's finance director, believes the school board enthusiasm was worth 10 points to McFarlane.
A "tsunami of volunteers" worked to boost Democratic turnout in school board races, he said.
"It was more about that volunteer force than anything Nancy did," he said.
A well-timed Meeker endorsement: One week before the election, Meeker called a news conference at his downtown law office. A crowd of television cameras and reporters showed up to watch the mayor formally declare his support for McFarlane's candidacy.
The endorsement was no surprise, but the timing allowed for maximum impact because many voters were just now tuning into the race, analysts said.
McFarlane was the "continuity candidate," Taylor said.
She sent out a campaign mailer that ticked off Raleigh's accolades on "most livable cities" lists and asked voters, "Why stop the momentum?"
Those who cast ballots for McFarlane said they were satisfied with the city's direction during the past decade.
"She's the person who will be most likely to follow Meeker's lead, and I think Meeker has done a fine job," said Elaine Gordon, who voted at Daniels Middle School.
Home turf in North Raleigh: McFarlane will be the first Raleigh mayor to live in North Raleigh since Tom Bradshaw, who held the office from 1971 to 1973.
Voters in the area have twice seen McFarlane's name on the ballot.
She's held the council's District A seat since 2008.
"To already have that base in North Raleigh was a real leg up for her," said Mack Paul, chairman of the Wake County Democratic Party. "Had she been coming out of District D or something, she would've had to fight for every vote to get herself established."
Paul recalled Meeker's 2001 victory against former mayor Paul Coble. The numbers from that race, he said, evoke a political era in Raleigh that no longer exists.
Meeker won every precinct inside the Beltline except North Hills, and lost every precinct in North Raleigh except Harrington Grove, where neighbors were upset at Coble for allowing a developer to build a road over a creek.
The demographics of North Raleigh have changed over the past decade, Paul said. Newcomers from other parts of the country have created a more culturally diverse electorate that doesn't vote strictly Republican, he said.
The trend was evident Tuesday.
McFarlane won all but 10 of the 40 or so North Raleigh precincts.