City Council District 2 fans north and west from uptown Charlotte, up Beatties Ford Road past Interstate 85, from shiny high-rises through pockets of poverty to prosperous suburbs.
Nearly two-thirds of the district’s voters are Democrats. Six out of 10 are African-American.
Now, for the first time in 14 years, the district’s City Council seat is opening up.
Five Democrats are vying to replace longtime incumbent James Mitchell, who’s running for mayor. The winner of the Sept. 10 primary goes on to face Republican Darryl Broome in November.
The Democratic field includes a former police officer, a college administrator, a well-known pastor and a veteran party activist. It also includes a 21-year-old who’s been in jail for robbery since shortly after he filed in July.
The race has unfolded quietly. Al Austin and John H. White are the only candidates raising money, and neither has raised more than $6,000. Rocky Bailey and Brenda Stevenson told election officials they didn’t plan to raise or spend virtually anything.
Justin Stewart remains behind bars, charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon and assault and battery.
Austin and White
Austin, 52, is a fundraiser for Johnson C. Smith University. He’s a former YMCA official who for years was executive director of the McCrorey Family YMCA on Beatties Ford Road.
Among his contributors is state Sen. Malcolm Graham, a colleague at Smith. Austin won endorsements by the Black Caucus and MeckPAC, Mecklenburg’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political action committee.
“I truly believe we need good people who understand government and can get consensus,” he says. “At one time in Charlotte, it wasn’t about Republican or Democrat – it was about building consensus.”
Austin is a proponent of extending the proposed streetcar up Beatties Ford Road. The so-called Gold Line, he says, could boost development along the Beatties Ford corridor as the Blue Line has done along South Boulevard.
White is a retired financial planner and former state official in Ohio who’s been active in party politics. At 80, he’s also the oldest candidate running in the city.
His contributors include Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board member Joyce Waddell and former county manager Harry Jones, whom he publicly defended when Jones was ousted. White also lent his campaign $3,000.
He’s also a supporter of the streetcar and ensuring minority contracts on public spending in the district. And he wants to increase the power of the Citizens Review Board that oversees the police department.
White is a party activist. He has led one of the district’s largest precincts and worked for Barack Obama’s election and re-election, even using a bullhorn last year to encourage voters to the polls. He says he’s “concerned about the least of these” and wants to speak for the “powerless.”
Stevenson and Bailey
Stevenson, 58, is pastor of New Outreach Christian Center off Rozzelles Ferry Road. She has garnered wide media attention for her efforts to feed the poor. By her own estimate, she’s fed more than 1 million people in 40 years of ministry.
Stevenson has been confined to a wheelchair since having part of her leg amputated in 2010. She recently received a prosthesis she hopes will enable her to walk again.
She considers her ministry “what I was born to do.” She looks at the council as another means of service.
“I look at it as going in and meeting the needs of the people in the community,” she says. “I just want to go in there and … meet the need.”
Bailey, 47, is a former Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer. He works with the state Commerce Department and as a security consultant.
In 2010, Bailey ran for the state House against Democratic incumbent Beverly Earle. He got 19 percent of the vote.
Bailey says jobs are his top priority for the district as well as affordable housing, especially for seniors.
“I’ve been an advocate for Charlotte since I was a police officer, since 1986,” says Bailey, who calls himself a “go-getter.”
An earlier story on candidate backgrounds showed that since 2003, the IRS has filed six liens against Bailey totaling $40,148.
Bailey, who has said the problems stemmed from a divorce, says the liens have been paid. As of Friday, Mecklenburg County court records indicated they hadn’t. Researcher Maria David contributed.
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