James Mitchell has fired the first shot in Charlottes Democratic mayoral primary with a mailer that accuses fellow City Council member Patrick Cannon of opposing former Mayor Anthony Foxx on the streetcar and other issues.
The mailer, which began reaching voters Wednesday, features a photo of Foxx and says Only one candidate for mayor supported Anthony Foxxs Plan to Move Charlotte Forward.
Punctuating what had been a low-key race, it came on the eve of early voting for the Sept. 10 primary. Early voting starts Thursday morning at uptowns Hal Marshall Annex.
Mitchell and Cannon are the leading Democrats in their primary. And in a city with twice as many Democrats as Republicans, either would stand a good chance of becoming the next mayor.
They face businessman Gary Dunn and former housing commissioner Lucille Puckett in the primary. The winner meets the winner of the Republican primary between former council member Edwin Peacock and David Michael Rice.
Cannon has raised $125,000, twice as much as Mitchell. Neither of their opponents has reported any fundraising.
In the mailer, Mitchell embraces Foxx and criticizes Cannon for opposing the former mayor at least three times in votes for a streetcar and a 2012 capital improvement plan. Foxx, now the U.S. transportation secretary, has not taken a public position in the primary.
(Im) trying to draw differences, Mitchell said Wednesday. I want to show there is a difference in our leadership styles and how we serve the public.
Cannon said he opposed paying for projects like the streetcar with property taxes, something he said has separated him and Mitchell.
Wednesday, Cannon declined to address Mitchells criticisms, saying only that they were just not productive.
The people of Charlotte deserve better, he said. I prefer to build bridges which is what the job of mayor requires.
When Foxx was mayor, Mitchell was one of his closest allies.
In 2012, Cannon initially voted against a nearly $1 billion capital improvement program because it included a streetcar paid for with property taxes. Foxx and Mitchell both supported the CIP and streetcar.
A year later, however, new City Manager Ron Carlee removed the streetcar from the CIP. He also created a plan to pay for it without using property taxes, which had been Cannons objection.
Cannon then voted for the streetcar. He also voted for the new CIP, which contained almost all of the projects from the 2012 plan.
In 1993, at age 26, Cannon was the youngest person ever elected to Charlottes city council. Now 46, hes its senior member.
Hes running on experience. He represented westside District 3 for eight years and was elected at-large in 2001. He served until 2005 and left the council after a short-lived bid for mayor. He returned in 2009 and has served as mayor pro tem since 2010.
The experience in service in a district and at-large, but more importantly in a mayoral capacity as mayor pro tem in the mayors absence, is the greatest distinction, Cannon says.
Mitchell, 51, is a district council member in his first city-wide race. His profile may be higher nationally than locally.
In 2011 he was the president of the National League of Cities and in 2012 was named Democratic Municipal Official of the Year by a group of the same name.
What that did for Charlotte was building relationships, he said, adding that rivals dont have the national profile or the state profile that he does.
Dunn, 59, works for a family-owned manufacturing company in Monroe. He ran for mayor 20 years ago and has twice run for governor.
Puckett, 45, is a former Charlotte Housing Authority commissioner and community activist.
All four Democratic candidates have had financial setbacks.
As the Observer reported last week, Cannon faced a total of $193,553 in IRS liens between 2003 and 2008. He satisfied all the liens. Mitchells home was foreclosed on in 2010. Court records show SunTrust Bank is still owed $2,300, a debt he disputes with his ex-wife.
In 2008 Carolinas Health Care System won a $5,000 judgment against Dunn, which is still unpaid. And Puckett was a Charlotte Housing Authority commissioner in 2011 when she was evicted from a public housing complex for violating rules. Staff writer Steve Harrison contributed.
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