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Our recommendations for today’s City Council runoff

Think one vote can’t make a difference? Greg Phipps will tell you it can – or at least that two votes can make all the difference.

Phipps was two votes shy of winning the Democratic primary last month for the Charlotte City Council’s District 4 seat. Instead, he faces second-place finisher Wil Russell in a runoff primary today. The winner in the northeast Charlotte district will be a heavy favorite to win a council seat in November against independent candidate Michael Zytkow.

The other race on the ballot is in northwest Charlotte’s District 2. Al Austin was the leading vote-getter last month in a five-person race and faces runner-up Brenda Stevenson today. The winner will be a heavy favorite over Republican Darryl Broome in November.

We recommend Al Austin and Greg Phipps.

District 2

Austin and Stevenson seek to replace James “Smuggie” Mitchell, who stepped down after seven terms to run for mayor. Austin, a major gifts officer for Johnson C. Smith University, is the former executive director of the McCrorey YMCA. He has a deeper grasp of the issues facing Charlotte than Stevenson does and provides a clearer roadmap about what is needed to tackle the city’s challenges. He also brings more wide-ranging skills with his previous leadership roles, his criminal justice background, his fundraising work and his involvement in collaborations and partnerships. He would make a strong council member.

District 4

Phipps and Russell are running to replace Michael Barnes, who is running for an at-large seat.

Either would make a competent City Council member, but we give the nod to Phipps because of his more extensive experience in the civic arena. He is in his second term on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission, and has held several other leadership roles, including as an interim City Council member for 10 months in 2005. Phipps, 60, retired in May after 40 years with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, where he checked large banks for compliance with various federal laws.

Russell, 35, is an assistant project manager for Rodgers Builders. He has brought energy to the campaign trail, and we hope he stays involved in public life.

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The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

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