The good thing about a low-turnout election? Your vote, if you make the minimal effort to cast it, is worth that much more.
That being the case, your vote could count for a lot Tuesday. Voters in Charlotte (and three other cities across the state) go to the polls for mayoral and City Council primaries. Less than 5 percent of voters typically turn out for a municipal primary in Charlotte. District 7 council member Warren Cooksey, for example, took the Republican nomination, and essentially the seat, by winning just 562 total votes in 2011.
A lot is at stake, despite the minimal public interest. Four of tonight’s winners face no opposition in the fall and so will almost certainly serve on the next City Council. At least three others will be heavy favorites in November. And at least a couple of incumbent council members are likely to lose tonight.
In other words, the group that will decide how much you pay in city taxes – the group that puts police on the street, collects your garbage and takes on questions like whether to help fund stadium renovations for the Carolina Panthers – will be largely decided Tuesday.
If you know much about the candidates, or are willing to do a little last-minute homework, let your voice be heard, and go vote.
The Observer editorial board researched the 33 candidates on Tuesday’s ballot. Here’s how we see the races (more detail on our reasoning is available at www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion).
James “Smuggie” Mitchell and Patrick Cannon, both long-time City Council members, face off for the Democratic nomination for mayor to replace Anthony Foxx. Two other candidates, Gary Dunn and Lucille Puckett, are also on the ballot.
We recommend Mitchell. The mayor’s effectiveness stems from his ability to work productively with the council and the city manager, to articulate a vision and to persuade people to follow his lead. The mayor needs the confidence and trust of those around him, especially on the council. Mitchell is the most effective candidate on this count.
On the Republican side, Edwin Peacock III, a former council member, is the obvious choice over perennial candidate David Michael Rice.
Seven Democrats battle for four nominations. Three stand out: David Howard, Michael Barnes and Vi Alexander Lyles. We make no recommendation for the fourth spot.
The incumbent Howard is a responsible decision-maker with proven leadership on a number of issues. Barnes, currently representing the northeast’s District 4, has been a careful steward of tax dollars and an asset in helping the council think more deeply about critical issues. Lyles, a former assistant city manager, is intelligent and thoughtful, and works well with a broad spectrum of people.
Five-term incumbent Patsy Kinsey, a Democrat, faces a challenge from Art Cardenas, a political newcomer. Kinsey has been a steady presence as interim mayor and a solid advocate for her district, and deserves another term.
Five Democrats hope to replace Mitchell in this north- and west-side district. We recommend Alvin (Al) Austin, a major gifts officer for Johnson C. Smith University and the former executive director of the McCrorey YMCA. His experience would make him an asset to the City Council.
Four Democrats are running to replace Barnes. We believe Greg Phipps or Wil Russell would make the strongest choice. Phipps is retired from a 40-year career with the U.S. Treasury and has held several high-profile public roles, including an interim stint on the council in 2005. Russell is making his first run for office and brings energy and a fresh perspective. We give a slight nod to Phipps because of his considerable experience.
Democrat John Autry seeks a second term. He has been an adequate representative for Charlotte’s eastside and is a stronger candidate than his opponent, Mitchell “Aerobo Cop” Smith-Bey.
Four able Republicans are running to replace Andy Dulin in this south Charlotte district. We recommend Kate Payerle, who stands out with a sophisticated understanding of city issues. She would bring a thoughtful, analytical approach to discussions about how the city should spend its money and invest in growth.
Three Republicans face off to replace the outgoing Cooksey in the conservative south Charlotte district. We recommend Ed Driggs. Retired from the financial industry, Driggs has the temperament and understanding of the issues necessary to effectively represent his constituents.
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