Bencini may run for mayor

Jan. 31, 2014 @ 04:54 PM

A political veteran from High Point says he’s considering a run for the city’s top elected post.
Guilford County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bill Bencini said he will not seek re-election to the board this year, but may make a bid for the High Point mayor’s seat.
“I haven’t really gotten far enough along in the thought process to make a final decision on it, but there’s no question it’s a possibility,” said Bencini, who served for 10 years on High Point City Council before he was elected to the District 2 commissioners seat in 2010.
The mayor’s seat, as well as all eight council positions, are up for election in November 2014. The filing period for candidates for city elections doesn’t open until July.
Mayor Bernita Sims, who served on council with Bencini for several years, said she hasn’t decided whether she will seek re-election.
“I do like Bill. I think he would make a very good mayor,” Sims said. “Depending on what I do, if I don’t run, he’d be the one I’d support.”
Bencini said he chose not to seek another four-year term on the board after the commissioners’ districts were redrawn by Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly in 2012.
Under the new maps, District 2, which he represents, takes in much less of High Point than it did when he was first elected.
“When I first ran, I ran to represent High Point and Guilford County. If you look at District 2 now, it would appear I would represent more cows in rural Guilford County than I would people that live in High Point,” said Bencini, who added that he decided a long time ago not to seek re-election for this reason.
Commissioner Hank Henning, who lives in Jamestown, now represents the bulk of the district to which Bencini was originally elected.
Bencini, who for many years has been open about his interest in one day running for mayor of his hometown, said High Point’s election method for city offices may play a role in his decision-making process about whether to run this year. As it stands now, there will be no primaries for 2014 council and mayoral elections, which means there could be an unlimited number of candidates on the November ballot for each seat.
Sims won the mayor’s seat in 2012 with 33 percent of the vote in a five-person race.
She is under felony indictment in connection with her handling of a family member’s estate in a case unrelated to her official duties. The case is pending in court. If convicted of a felony, Sims would be barred from holding elected office in North Carolina.
Some council members have proposed bringing back primaries this year for city races, although that is unlikely to happen because of the difficulty with getting state legislation enacted in time.
A city referendum is scheduled for November 2014 on the question of whether to institute primaries and change city elections from even- to odd-numbered years.
If the referendum passes, the changes wouldn’t take effect until the 2017 elections. 
“I think you’re going to have multiple people run, so I need to gauge the strength of support I might be able to garner in the city,” Bencini said. “Depending on who runs, you would have to look at the different ways the votes can be split up. I need to give that some more thought.” 
Sims said, “If we were to run against each other, I don’t think there would be any acrimony involved in it. We would be running for the same purposes and doing what was best for the city.”
Bencini’s pending departure from the board brings to three the number of commissioners who have said they won’t seek re-election this year. Commissioner Bruce Davis of High Point plans to run for Congress while Commissioner Linda Shaw has said she will retire from the board.