In another sign that crime will be a top issue in Charlotte’s mayoral race, Republican Kenny Smith is taking to social media with an ad that blasts Democratic Mayor Jennifer Roberts for “failing us” amid rising crime statistics.
“Crime in Charlotte is out of control and our current mayor, Jennifer Roberts, is failing us,” he said in the ad.
The ad is the first of the campaign and unusual in that neither Smith nor Roberts has won nomination. In her bid for a second term, Roberts faces Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles and state Sen. Joel Ford in the Democratic primary. Smith is so far unopposed in the GOP contest.
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Asked why he targeted the mayor, he said, “Jennifer is the candidate until she’s not.”
“By all metrics she’s leading the primary, more importantly she’s been absent on this topic,” he said.
In a statement, Roberts said “public safety has always been a priority for me.” She pointed to her efforts to work with police, and to her efforts to include a parental leave policy in the budget that would help all employees.
Charlotte has had 38 homicides this year, the most in recent years. Smith’s ad says murders are up “a shocking 111 percent.”
“Public safety should be the primary focus of local government,” Smith said Thursday. “It’s a very important topic for all of Charlotte. Beatties Ford Road should be just as safe as Barclay Downs Drive. Right now some of our most fragile neighborhoods are under siege and we need to step up and keep folks safe.”
The city’s proposed budget calls for 62 new police officers. Ford has called for adding 100 more than the department requested.
Roberts’ campaign manager, Sam Spencer, said, “Not surprisingly, Republican Kenny Smith isn’t offering any new solutions, only negative attacks. Kenny Smith is a voting member of the public safety committee. Instead of passing the buck, he should look in the mirror.”
Last month the Charlotte Fraternal Order of Police criticized the City Council for not increasing their pay enough to retain officers, and one officer said the city is dealing with the so-called “Ferguson effect,” in which officers struggle to fight crime for fear of being second-guessed.