Charlotte City Council considers possible successors to former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon
03/30/2014 7:07 PM
03/31/2014 9:36 AM
The Charlotte City Council is scheduled to meet Monday to select a new mayor, but after days of intense lobbying among members, there is still no consensus on who should replace Patrick Cannon.
It’s possible council members could vote to wait a week or two and allow candidates to formally apply.
“It’s so fluid right now,” said at-large council member Claire Fallon late Sunday afternoon. “It changes by the hour.”
Cannon was arrested Wednesday by the FBI on corruption charges after a nearly 4-year-old undercover investigation. He resigned as mayor Wednesday night.
Prosecutors from the office of U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins could take the corruption charges against Cannon, a 47-year-old Democrat, before a grand jury as early as this week.
But that timetable likely changed Thursday when James Ferguson, Cannon’s attorney, waived his client’s right to a preliminary hearing. That also removes the requirement that the prosecution have an indictment against Cannon within 30 days of his arrest.
Some council members would like to see James “Smuggie” Mitchell named to the position. Mitchell, a former council member, lost to Cannon in last September’s Democratic mayoral primary.
One council member said he would support Mitchell because he was the only one who opposed Cannon in the Democratic primary. Mitchell is now running for Congress in the 12th District.
Another faction on the council is pushing for State Sen. Dan Clodfelter of Charlotte.
Also in the mix is council member Michael Barnes, the mayor pro tem, who received the most votes in November’s election.
“Michael is my first choice and Dan (Clodfelter) is my second,” said Fallon.
The person selected must be a Democrat and a resident of Charlotte and will serve out the remainder of Cannon’s term, which ends in December 2015.
Making the selection harder for council members is that they will not be allowed to go into closed session.
When council members hire a new manager or attorney they can hash out a consensus selection behind closed doors, before they take a final vote for the public. Monday’s meeting – which begins at 6 p.m. – will be entirely in the sunshine.
When Patsy Kinsey was named mayor in July after Anthony Foxx stepped down to become the federal Transportation Department secretary , Kinsey had said she wouldn’t seek the office in the election. With only five months to serve, Kinsey refrained from making any bold policy speeches and didn’t veto any legislation.
She did, however, continue to lead the city’s fight to keep control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport. She also participated in a summer gay pride parade uptown, which earned her goodwill from many residents.
It’s possible there could be more than two candidates receiving votes and Kinsey has said she would be interested in the job.
The next mayor will have nearly two years to serve – and a greater opportunity to place their stamp on how the city moves froward.
At-large council member David Howard has said he would likely accept, and Barnes said he might take the job, though he wouldn’t seek it.
For the last several years, the City Council has been closely divided into two factions – even though Democrats hold a 9-2 advantage.
One group that often votes together is Howard, Kinsey, LaWana Mayfield and John Autry. Mayfield told WSOC-TV that she supports Mitchell.
On the other side has been a more conservative faction of council members, with Democrats Fallon and Barnes being joined by the two lone Republicans, Kenny Smith and Ed Driggs. In the middle: Democrats Al Austin and Vi Lyles.
Council members could be deadlocked and decide to wait to make a decision.
“That wouldn’t be a bad thing,” said Driggs.
Lyles said Sunday afternoon that “time is important, but it’s not the most important thing.”
Autry, however, said he wants to make a choice Monday. “We need to resolve the matter. There is a lot of city business to deal with.”
Autry said one of the biggest challenges is that the city is entering budget negotiations for the upcoming fiscal year.
A social media campaign is pushing former county commissioner Jennifer Roberts for mayor. A change.org petition for Roberts had more than 400 signatures Sunday evening. But the campaign hasn’t appeared to have gained traction with council members so far.
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