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Charlotte City Council primaries: Phipps, Austin win

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In September, Greg Phipps came within a whisker of winning the Democratic primary outright for Charlotte City Council District 4.

Phipps, a retired bank examiner for the U.S. Treasury Department, fell two votes short of getting 40 percent, sending him to a runoff election Tuesday.

Phipps had little trouble besting Wil Russell, 72 percent to 28 percent.

Voters in District 2 also went to the polls Tuesday for a runoff in the Democratic primary.

Alvin “Al” Austin, a major gifts officer for Johnson C. Smith University, defeated Brenda Stevenson, a pastor who serves food to people in need, with 75 percent of the vote.

In District 4, which covers much of northeast Charlotte, including University City, Phipps will now face unaffiliated candidate Michael Zytkow, who gathered enough signatures – more than 3,000 – to get a spot on the November ballot. Zytkow is best known for his activist work during the Occupy Charlotte movement in 2011.

Phipps said he worried whether his supporters would come to the polls for such a low-visibility election.

“I was filled with anxiety,” Phipps said. “It could be anyone’s race if they got their people out.”

Phipps said he’s looking forward to having a “spirited debate” with Zytkow.

Phipps had briefly held the seat in 2005 to fill the remaining term of Malcolm Graham when he left for the state Senate.

In District 2, which covers northwest Charlotte, Austin will face Republican Darryl Broome.

“My team and I came up with a good strategic plan,” Austin said. “We worked the plan. We went back to the old school of knocking on doors.”

He said he believes District 2 can be “the next economic frontier for the city.”

The Democrats who won Tuesday are expected to be favorites in the November general election, because of there being more registered Democrats than Republicans or unaffiliated in each district among registered voters.

This was the first runoff for City Council in 14 years.

Turnout was 6.7 percent for the September primary. On Tuesday, turnout was a fraction of that, at 1.7 percent of registered voters.

Democrat James Mitchell currently holds the District 2 seat. He ran for mayor but lost the Democratic primary to Patrick Cannon.

Democrat Michael Barnes holds the District 4 seat. He is running for an at-large seat in November.

Harrison: 704-358-5160
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