Mecklenburg voters will get a second chance Tuesday to pick the Republican nominee for the District 5 county commissioners seat.
Sarah Cherne and Matthew Ridenhour are competing to represent a district that includes much of south Charlotte.
Other runoffs across North Carolina include three congressional races, five statewide contests, four state Senate seats, and three state House races.
This is Chernes first run for public office. Ridenhour ran unsuccessfully for a Charlotte City Council at-large seat in 2009.
North Carolina law requires primary candidates to receive a substantial plurality of votes in order to advance to the general election. It usually means a person must win 40 percent, plus one, of the overall votes cast in a race.
In the May 8 primary, Ridenhour won just over 34 percent of the vote to Chernes 32.6 percent, with 280 votes separating them.
Since then, both candidates have been campaigning door to door and enlisted volunteers to reach out to voters.
Both Cherne and Ridenhour said they believed an outside party should conduct future property revaluations, which are now done by the county. County commissioners last week approved an outside review of the 2011 revaluation.
But each candidate is trying to stand out in a majority Republican district.
The winner of the July 17 runoff faces Democrat Paula Harvey in November's general election.
For Cherne, a former nonprofit executive, the race for commissioner boils down to management experience.
Both Matthew and I have similar approaches and philosophies, but I have experience in executing programs, initiatives and ideas at a much higher level, Cherne said. Working with nonprofits like Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte, where she was CEO until late 2010, Cherne said she worked on building million-dollar budgets.
She said the impact of the revaluations she and her husband saw a 30 percent increase in their property taxes was an impetus for her run for office.
One of the most important things we can do is continue to push on the investigation, Cherne said. The way theyve done revaluations seems to be dysfunctional.
Cherne, 44, has two sons in middle school in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system, and also volunteers with the schools.
A proponent of teachers raises, Cherne said the schools leadership needs to put their money where their mouth is. She said the county commissioners have set a precedent of accountability by holding $18.5 million in a restricted fund to be used only for CMS raises. Cherne said she would consider doing so again in the future.
Among Chernes endorsements are Neil Cooksey, the current District 5 county commissioner who recently entered hospice care; Dan Bishop, a former District 5 county commissioner; Ed McMahan, a former state House member; former city councilman John Lassiter; and former school board members Kaye McGarry, Lindalyn Kakadelis and Sharon Bynum.
I never envisioned my life to take this course to run for political office. Im honored by the votes that I received and by how well we did on May 8, and Im excited about the runoff on July 17, said Cherne, a native of Maine who moved to Charlotte in 2008. She has a masters degree in criminology from the University of South Florida and worked as a private investigator in New York.
Ridenhour, a Marine who served in Iraq and a financial analyst, is a proponent of zero-based budgeting, which requires every line item expense to be justified, he said.
Itll cut wasteful spending of underperforming programs, get our county budget into better shape and make it more manageable, said Ridenhour, 34.
As a local tea party organizer, Ridenhour said that in 2009, he and others protested the possibility of a second half-cent sales tax for mass transit, as well as a proposed county increase in stormwater fees.
If hes elected commissioner, Ridenhour said he would work to get to know the county staff and other commissioners to build relationships with them. He said he also could continue knocking on doors to continue talking to neighbors about issues they have.
Working in the Marine Corps has given me the perspective of working with people and building consensus with people from different socioeconomic backgrounds to get people to accomplish a mission, Ridenhour said.
Though Ridenhour has lived in other cities including Pittsburgh and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. he said he is a native Charlottean who has deep roots in Mecklenburg County.
Ridenhour, who married last year, said his familys history here traces back to colonial times.
I want to be a voice of the people and give them representation on the board so that they dont feel theyre fighting the fight alone. Im not running because it is a stepping stone (to higher office), Im running because I care about our community and want to affect some change here locally, Ridenhour said.
Some of Ridenhours endorsements include Lynn Wheeler, a former Charlotte City Council member and mayor pro tem; City Council member Andy Dulin; Dan Forest, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor; and school board members Tim Morgan and Rhonda Lennon.