Before a divided audience, Charlotte’s two leading Democratic mayoral candidates – and their allies – made their cases at a candidate forum Tuesday morning.
City Council members Patrick Cannon and James Mitchell joined challengers Gary Dunn and Lucille Puckett at the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum, a mostly African-American group that meets in west Charlotte.
The four are in the last week of a campaign for the Sept. 10 primary.
Anna Hood, wearing a Cannon campaign T-shirt, told Mitchell she was “disappointed” by mailers that portray Cannon as a frequent opponent of former Mayor Anthony Foxx. Mitchell has cast himself as Foxx’s political heir.
“Let me apologize to you if I have offended you,” Mitchell said. “It was sharing a contrast between my voting record and my opponent’s voting record.”
“I don’t see where I opposed (Foxx) per se,” replies Cannon, who did acknowledge differences with Foxx in approach. The only example he cited was a 2011 vote where he opposed an effort led by Foxx to withhold $7.5 million in tourism funds to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.
That was seen as a way to pressure the CRVA board to fire then-director Tim Newman.
In a 7-4 vote, with Mitchell in the majority and Cannon in the minority, council members voted to withhold the money.
Cannon took opposite positions from Foxx on other issues, including the proposed streetcar.
A Mitchell supporter, meanwhile, cited the Observer editorial endorsing Mitchell as a consensus builder. Mitchell said he would continue to build bridges as mayor.
Cannon cited what he called a long list of accomplishments that show he’s also a consensus builder.
Puckett suggested the endorsement could mean the editorial board sees Mitchell as a “weaker candidate,” in hopes of electing Republican Edwin Peacock in November.
Turning to Puckett, Cannon said, “The tea leaves may be being read correctly.”
On other issues, Cannon suggested he was open to studying political consolidation of city and county governments if the county’s six small towns agree.
Puckett also said she’d consider it.
Mitchell said while he favors functional consolidation, he doesn’t support a political merger.
“Political consolidation is not good for the African-American community where we could lose representation,” he said.
Dunn said consolidation isn’t needed.
Former TV journalist Ken Koontz asked Mitchell and Cannon about closed council meetings.
He and three other broadcasters filed suit last month claiming the City Council violated the state open meetings law by voting in closed session on a plan to pay for renovations for Bank of America Stadium.
Koontz called Mitchell “the poster boy for closed sessions.”
Mitchell said closed sessions were to discuss the “parameters” on any deal, which would be voted on in open session. Cannon said the council should be careful about going into closed sessions.
Despite their differences, and the stakes in their costly campaign, Cannon and Mitchell were generally collegial.
At one point, in answer to a question about how neighborhoods could get curbs and sidewalks, Cannon leaned into Mitchell, who represents District 2, and said, “You can lean on your district representative.
“And if that can’t get it done, you can call me as mayor.”
Laughing, Mitchell returned the lean.
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