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Runoffs appear likely for 2 Charlotte City Council races

Nearly two months before November’s general election, much of Charlotte City Council was effectively chosen Tuesday. But two districts appeared headed for runoff elections next month.

No outright winner emerged from the Democratic primaries in either District 2 or 4. In both of those districts, the winner faces no Republican opponent in the fall, meaning the winner of the Democratic primary will take the seat. Both of those seats now come down to runoff elections, which historically have the lowest turnout rates in the state.

The only district with no primary was District 3, covering much of west and southwest Charlotte. There, Democratic incumbent LaWana Mayfield will face Republican Eric Netter and Libertarian Travis C. Wheat in November.

Here’s how Tuesday’s voting broke down:

District 1

Charlotte Mayor Patsy Kinsey, who held the District 1 seat before being named to replace former Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx, handily beat challenger Art Cardenas to win back her old seat.

Kinsey, a Democrat, faces no opponent in the general election. She won the district with a large majority, racking up more than 92 percent of the vote. Kinsey finished with 3,409 ballots to Cardenas’ 291.

Cardenas works in information technology for Carolinas Healthcare System. It was Cardenas’ first run for public office. Kinsey’s higher name recognition helped her win.

“I voted for Patsy Kinsey because I know her,” said Lois Timmons outside of First Ward Elementary School.

District 2

No immediate winner emerged Tuesday night from a crowded field of five Democrats vying to replace James Mitchell, and District 2 appeared headed for a runoff vote Oct 8, in which the top two vote-getters would face each other.

Mitchell represented the district for 14 years, and no clear frontrunner broke out in the contest for his seat. A total of 5,134 voters cast ballots in the race, and at the end of the night no candidate had cleared the required 40 percent vote threshold to win the seat outright. Al Austin, a fundraiser for Johnson C. Smith University, led with 34.2 percent of votes cast, Brenda Stevenson, a pastor, was second with 31.6 percent, and John White was third with 28.7 percent. Justin Steward and Rocky Bailey trailed with 3.5 and 2 percent of votes respectively.

Austin or Stevenson of the Democratic primary will face Republican Darryl Broome in the November general election.

District 2 is solidly Democratic, with almost two-thirds of voters registered Democrats. The population is 60 percent African-American.

District 4

Four Democratic candidates split the vote and sent District 4 to a likely runoff election next month as well, with Greg Phipps falling only a handful of ballots short of the 40 percent threshold.

He will potentially face Wil Russel, who got the second-highest vote total, in a runoff election.

Phipps, a a retired bank examiner for the U.S. Treasury Department, racked up 39.9 percent of the 3,699 votes cast in District 4. Russel, an assistant project manager with Rogers Construction, trailed with 20.8 percent; Leonard Richardson III, 19.8 percent; and Levester Flowers, 19.5 percent.

No other candidates are currently running to oppose the winner of the Democratic primary. But activist Michael Zytkow is trying to collect enough signatures to run as an independent in the general election.

Democrat Michael Barnes has represented the district since 2005, but gave up his seat this year to seek an at-large spot on city council.

District 5

Incumbent Democrat John Autry easily beat Mitchell “Aerobo Cop” Smith-Bey to represent District 5 – which covers much of east Charlotte – for a second term on city council.

With 25 of 25 precincts counted, Autry had 67 percent of the vote, to Smith-Bey’s 33 percent.

Autry will face no opposition in November.

On the council, he was a close ally with former Mayor Anthony Foxx on several key issues including the city’s $816.4 million capital improvement plan and efforts to build a streetcar. In August 2012, he successfully lobbied colleagues to buy the shuttered Eastland Mall in his district for $13.2 million.

District 6

Political newcomer Kenny Smith comfortably won over Charlotte lawyer Kate Payerle in heavily Republican District 5.

With 35 of 35 precincts reporting, Smith had 49 percent of the vote to Payerle’s 43 percent. Of the other Republicans in the race, James Peterson had 5.6 percent and Ken Lindholm had 2.3 percent.

Smith, who faces no opposition in November, will fill a seat vacated by Republican Andy Dulin, who decided not to run for re-election.

Smith said he would have voted against the capital improvement plan, and criticized the council for giving the Panthers $87.5 million for stadium renovations and buying Eastland Mall for $13.2 million.

Tuesday, Smith said his message on cutting spending for “pet projects” resonated with voters. “We ran on my principle of promoting conservative economic policies,” he said.

District 7

Retired banker and financial analyst Ed Driggs beat fellow Republicans Jay Privette and Duncan Wilson in a bid to replace outgoing council member Warren Cooksey.

With 20 of 20 precincts reporting, Driggs had 52.7 percent of the vote to Privette’s 40 percent. A third Republican, Duncan Wilson, had 6.3 percent.

Driggs will face Democrat Bakari Burton in the overwhelmingly Republican district.

Driggs has never held office, but is not new to Mecklenburg politics.

Last year, he narrowly lost the Republican primary to Bill James for county commissioner.

Privette supported moving much of the district from Charlotte and forming a new municipality called Providence.

But Driggs said the move hasn’t been researched and supporters of the deannexation don’t know if it’s even possible.

“I think to advocate the deannexation while also serving on city council doesn’t make sense,” Driggs said.

Portillo: 704-358-5041 Perlmutt: 704-358-5061
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