Where does Charlotte City Council member and mayoral candidate James Mitchell live?
In an interview with the Observer Wednesday morning, Mitchell said he recently moved out of the district he represents — a decision that could pose a problem for the candidate for the last three months of his term.
Later in the day, a campaign manager said he doesn't think Mitchell has moved into the house yet, but that he intends to do so.
Mitchell said he moved July 31 into a new house off of Amber Leigh Way in northeast Charlotte, which is in District 4. Mitchell was elected in 2011 to represent District 2, in northwest Charlotte.
Mitchell said the move isn’t a problem because he is running for mayor, a citywide office. He is in a tightly contested battle with Patrick Cannon, the Mayor Pro Tem, in Tuesday’s primary.
The winner will likely face Republican Edwin Peacock, a former council member, in the November general election. Peacock faces David Michael Rice, who has a cable television ministry, in the Republican primary.
If Mitchell has moved out of the district, that could make it complicated to continue serving on District 2 in September and October.
State law says that when a city is divided into electoral districts for the purpose of electing members of the council, “council members shall reside in the district they represent.”
The law also states: “When any elected city officer ceases to meet all of the qualifications for holding office pursuant to the Constitution, or when a council member ceases to reside in an electoral district that he was elected to represent, the office is ipso facto vacant.”
Mitchell said he and his family moved into the new house July 31. He said they had been renting in the Overlook community near Mountain Island Lake, at 12519 Overlook Mountain Drive. That is where he is currently registered to vote and is in District 2.
“We were renting,” Mitchell said. “But I couldn’t negotiate a good price.”
Mitchell’s campaign manager, David Furr, said Mitchell still has a lease on his District 2 house and that his clothes are still there. He said Mitchell’s wife moved into the new house on July 31.
He also said Mitchell had called the Mecklenburg Board of Elections to make sure the move was OK.
“I know they have an intention to move into the house (in District 4),” Furr said. “I don’t know if he’s moving after the primary or after the general election.”
He added: “I know the intent wasn’t to get out before the primary, and I’m not sure about the general.”
It’s not uncommon for politicians to move so they can run for office in a district.
Republican City Council member Warren Cooksey, who represents District 7 in far south Charlotte, did just that six years ago. Cooksey said he signed a lease for an apartment in the Ballantyne-area in May of 2007 and moved from the Plaza-Midwood area in June of that year. That was before he ran for the District 7 seat that fall.
Cooksey said his understanding of that state constitution is that he has to continue living in the district to represent it.
City Attorney Bob Hagemann declined to comment, saying he didn’t know the details of the situation.
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