from the News and Observer today..

Ruth Sheehan, Staff Writer

Former Cary Mayor Glen Lang hasn't been involved in local politics since he was voted out of office in 2003.
So imagine his surprise when his successor, Ernie McAlister, and his supporters ran big ol' ads linking opponent Harold Weinbrecht to the previous administration.

"That would be me," Lang said. It wasn't meant to be a compliment.

But it's funny how that worked out.

By the end of the campaign, Weinbrecht was the one playing up the connection to Lang. He beat McAlister handily.

For those of you new to the area, Lang was the first Triangle official elected on a slow-growth platform.

Of course Lang was also known for his brash, combative style and Midwestern accent, which stood in stark contrast with longtime Cary Mayor Koka Booth.

Personally, I always found his lack of filter rather refreshing. I was reminded of that the other day when he offered up some Monday-morning quarterbacking on his town's elections.

He noted that when he first took office, in 1999, the growth rate in Cary was 9 percent. By the time he was defeated four years later, growth was at less than 1 percent.

He wanted developers to pay for schools; he bumped up impact fees on new homes.

He concedes now that he over-corrected. (Though, in true Lang fashion, he has no regrets.)

He thinks the tight controls imposed during his tenure prompted the pendulum swing that landed largely pro-growth, pro-developer candidates into office. Impact fees were slashed.

This week's elections, he said, will re-center things.

This time voters caught the growth trend before it swung out of control.

The catalyst, Lang thinks, was the contentious debate over the development at Davis Drive and High House Road.

He pointed to council member Nels Roseland as proof. Roseland voted in favor of the project and was soundly defeated, even though he had always been a moderate on the council.

The upside of the controversy is that it got people involved. About 20 percent of Cary voters trekked to the polls -- nearly twice the percentage who bothered to vote in Raleigh and Wake County races.

"Looks to me like people are paying attention," Lang said.

He credits e-mail and YouTube with getting the word out, getting people stirred up.

"Let's face it: Ernie should have thumped Harold," he said. Not only was McAlister the incumbent, he raised five times as much money as his opponent.

"That's a near insurmountable difference," Lang said.

So even though Lang had sworn off local politics, he sent Weinbrecht a check for $500 in the week before the election. Pity motivated him.

"I thought, 'Oh Lord, poor Harold.' "

Then Lang got the call asking whether some of the slower-growth candidates could mention him in their own ads.

"I warned them, 'That could cut either way,' " he said.

Their bet paid off.

Lang was out of town on business on election day, but I dare say he read the results with satisfaction.

Out of office, but not quite out of power, yet.