For the first time in 14 years, some Charlotte voters will head back to the polls for primary runoffs next month after one candidate fell two votes short of a clean win.
Both runoffs will be among Democrats.
In northeast Charlotte’s District 4, Greg Phipps will face Wil Russell in an Oct. 8 runoff.
And Al Austin and Brenda Stevenson will meet in northwest Charlotte’s District 2.
Both Russell and Stevenson formally asked for runoffs Tuesday after Mecklenburg elections officials ended their formal canvass of votes from the Sept. 10 primary.
As second-place finishers, each had the right to seek a runoff because the first-place finishers failed to get 40 percent of the vote.
Phipps came painfully close.
He ended up with 39.97 percent of the vote in District 4 – two short of what he needed to avoid a runoff.
“I hate to see the county go through the expense of having a runoff,” Phipps said. “But if that’s the desire of my opponent, my campaign is prepared.”
Russell, who got 21 percent of the vote, said he felt “the voters did not make a clear choice.”
“It needed to be settled and I wanted to push forward,” he said.
The winner could face Michael Zytkow, a former leader of Occupy Charlotte who is trying to petition his way onto the ballot as an independent candidate. On Tuesday he was halfway to the 3,000 signatures he needs by Friday. There is no Republican candidate on the November ballot.
Tuesday’s canvass, which reviewed provisional and some absentee ballots, didn’t significantly change the results in District 2.
Austin continued to lead the multi-candidate field with 34 percent of the vote. Stevenson got 32 percent. Three other candidates split the rest.
“Game on,” Austin said. “We’ll just be knocking on more doors. Hopefully there will be more forums that will bring to light the differences between me and my opponent.”
Stevenson, a pastor who serves food to people in need, said she intends to campaign hard.
“I’m going to continue to serve people,” she said, “… I can serve them on a higher level.”
The winner faces Republican Darryl Broome in November.
The final tally in Tuesday’s canvass showed a primary turnout of 6.7 percent. Estimates of runoff turnout are even lower.
In 1999, Democrat James Mitchell won a District 2 runoff that attracted a 5 percent turnout.
Last week, Mitchell lost a mayoral primary to City Council colleague Patrick Cannon.
The lower the turnout, the more individual votes count. After falling two votes shy, Phipps knows that well.
“Every vote counts in the final analysis,” he said.
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