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Debate scheduled ahead of New Bern run-off election

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NEW BERN, N.C. - The two candidates for New Bern's mayor will face off Monday.

Sabrina Bengel and Dana Outlaw will debate from 12-to-2 today at the Issac Taylor Garden in New Bern. New Bern Bow is hosting the event.

All questions will come from the city's voters.    
    
Both candidates have indicated they'll focus heavily on utility charges.

"It is the 500 pound gorilla in the room. And that is the electric rates. That seems to be the #1 topic our citizens want to talk about," said Sabrina Bengel, mayoral candidate.

"I have been from the beginning and continue to be concerned with the financial stability of our city,” said Dana Outlaw, mayoral candidate. “I am continually asked about why electric, water, and sewer rates are as high as they are."

This is the first mayoral runoff debate.
    
A second debate is scheduled for next Monday night at Craven Community College.

--- Original Story ---

First ward alderman Sabrina Bengel and sixth ward alderman Dana Outlaw will face off against each other for the mayor's position. Bengel and Outlaw received more votes than any other candidate. Bengel received 30.47% of the vote and Outlaw received 26.52%.

Along with a crowd of supporters, Bengel celebrated being in first place.

"I am so ready to take on that role of mayor, and I will be working very hard over the next six weeks to continue to put out my message of positive momentum for the city," she said.

Bengel says she wants to restore trust and accountability to the mayor's office.

"I think it's time people can count on that we will have a mayor that will be available, accessible, will be there to answer questions, that you can trust to be the person you elected," said Bengel.

Elsewhere in downtown New Bern, a quieter celebration was held at the Outlaw camp.

"I feel good, but I feel disappointed. I would have thought more voters would have felt the way I do," said Outlaw.

Outlaw admits beating Bengel will be a challenge in the coming weeks, but he believes he's a tough candidate.

"I'm concerned and have been for 8 years about the transfers of money in the water, sewer, and electric funds, and the financial stability and the way we have to wean ourselves off of using the subscribers of our services, their fee structure," said Outlaw.

Third ward alderman Denny Bucher came in third place with 18% of the vote, followed by Barbara Lee, Tharesa Lee, and Edwin Vargas.

A runoff election November 5 will determine the next mayor. Current New Bern mayor, Lee Bettis, announced in February he would not seek re-election. He was charged with DWI in May.

According to the Board of Elections website, eight people voted for a seventh mayoral candidate, Dale Simmons. His name was on the ballot even though he dropped out of the race.
 
The West New Bern Recreation Center was the busiest of the seven polling locations in New Bern on election day. Voters trickled in since 6:30 in the morning.

By noon, more than a thousand people in the city had already voted. By 2 o'clock, voter turnout was 28 percent, according to Craven County board of elections director Meloni Wray. The number includes people who voted Tuesday and people who voted by absentee ballot or one-stop voting.

With six candidates running for mayor, Wray says this was a historic election.
 
"From what I understand, it's very unusual. They're talking, this is the first time in a while they've had that many candidates run for mayor," said Wray.

To view the election results for mayor and for the board of aldermen, visit the Craven County Board of Elections website, and click on "Scrolling Presentation" or "Non-scrolling presentation": http://www.cravencounty.com/departments/elc.cfm.
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