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Patrick Cannon is expected to join mayor's race today

Charlotte’s mayoral race could come into sharper focus Tuesday with the expected entry of Democrat Patrick Cannon, the mayor pro tem and the City Council’s longest-serving member.

He’s scheduled to announce his plans at a midday news conference.

Cannon would be the first Democrat to announce for the seat being vacated by Democratic incumbent Anthony Foxx, nominated by President Barack Obama as U.S. transportation secretary. Foxx is scheduled to begin confirmation hearings Wednesday in Washington.

It’s only the third time since 1995 that no incumbent mayor is running.

So far, Republican Edwin Peacock, a former council member, is the only Republican in the race.

Other Democrats are considering it. One is David Howard, an at-large council member. But he said he’s leaning toward running for re-election.

State Sen. Dan Clodfelter, who has expressed interest, could not be reached. Rep. Becky Carney said she’s still deciding.

“I’m just not quite there yet,” she said.

Cannon, 47, declined comment Monday.

He would start the race with several advantages.

He’s by far the council’s longest-serving member. He has been re-elected eight times, often leading the at-large ticket. When first elected in 1993 at age 26, he was the youngest person ever elected to city office.

He would run in an increasingly blue city. Democrats make up 50 percent of the city’s voters, more than twice as much as registered Republicans. Even unaffiliated voters outnumber Republicans.

“It’s all about voter demographics and voter intensity,” said Democratic consultant Dan McCorkle, a Cannon supporter. “If you’re a Democrat in Charlotte, it’s all about getting people to the polls because we will win.”

As an African-American, Cannon could have an edge in a Democratic primary. Black voters make up 63 percent of the city’s registered Democrats.

For all those reasons, “Patrick Cannon starts out as a front-runner,” said Republican consultant Larry Shaheen.

Cannon made an aborted run for mayor in 1995.

That February he announced a challenge to Republican Mayor Pat McCrory. Three months later, he stunned supporters by dropping out, citing the recent deaths of two relatives and a renewed focus on his family. The Observer later revealed troubles with the Internal Revenue Service. He faced a series of tax liens that would eventually total $193,000.

Race won’t lack issues

The mayor’s race isn’t expected to lack for issues.

Peacock said he believes the biggest will be jobs.

“The No. 1 issue continues to be the economy and to have someone who is representing the business community,” he said. “That’s the message that you hear time and time again.”

The council is scheduled to vote in June on a capital budget that would require as much as a 7.25 percent property tax increase.

Peacock said he supports an effort last year by some council members to pare down the capital program and the property tax increase needed to fund it.

Council members also are scheduled to vote on a new plan to build a 2.5-mile extension for an uptown streetcar, which has been renamed the CityLynx Gold Line.

City Manager Ron Carlee’s plan calls for the city to apply for a $63 million federal grant. The city’s share of the streetcar – $63 million – would come from a number of reserve funds.

Those reserve accounts are funded, in part, by property taxes. But Carlee has stressed that the money used for the streetcar would come from nonproperty tax sources, such as the sales tax.

Cannon voted against the streetcar plan last year because it would have been paid for entirely with a property tax increase.

When Carlee’s most recent plan was unveiled last week, Cannon said he was “in a better place” because there would be no property tax increase tied to the Gold Line.

Peacock said he’s against the streetcar plan.

“At this time, no, because I don’t see a dedicated funding source to pay for it,” he said. “We are buying something that we can’t pay for.”

Peacock lost a bid for re-election in 2011. Though favored to retain his at-large seat, he finished fifth behind four Democrats.

Cannon, who would try to succeed Foxx, has his own ties to the mayor and his family.

When he first ran for council in 1993, party leaders asked the mayor’s grandfather, James Foxx, to take Cannon under his wing. Cannon won, and hasn’t lost since.

Morrill: 704-358-5059
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