Charlotte’s mayoral contest appears to have come down to a two-man race as it heads into the final weekend, with a flurry of lobbying but little consensus.
“I would hope that we can start coalescing around somebody in the next 48 hours,” Democratic City Council member John Autry said Friday.
The council meets Monday night to elect a successor to former Mayor Patrick Cannon, a Democrat who resigned last week after his arrest on federal corruption charges.
Under state law, they have to choose a Democrat to serve out his term through December 2015.
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At least four people are interested in the job. Supporters of former Mecklenburg commissioner Jennifer Roberts have launched online petition drives on her behalf. Party activist Frank Deaton has started his own online petition.
While some council members caution about the chance of a last-minute surprise, others suggest they’re split between two candidates: state Sen. Dan Clodfelter, a former council member and eight-term lawmaker, and former council member James “Smuggie” Mitchell, who lost last year’s primary to Cannon.
Some council members are holding their cards close.
“I am not declaring for anyone,” said Democrat Patsy Kinsey, who served five months as mayor last year after Anthony Foxx left to become U.S. transportation secretary.
Though the next mayor needs just six votes, Kinsey said she hopes it will be a consensus choice. “We must be unanimous when we go out to raise our hands on Monday night,” she said.
Democrat Claire Fallon has said she’s leaning toward Clodfelter. “He’s got integrity,” she said this week. “He’s got stature. He’s been on council. He knows what to do.”
Mitchell supporters, said to number at least four, say he should be rewarded for running last year.
“James jumped into the race and he gave it his all,” said Democrat David Howard. “That should mean something to us. … If (Cannon’s arrest) had gone down last year, James would be our mayor now.”
Council members have seen their phone lines and email accounts burning up with supporters of one candidate or the other.
On Friday, Black Political Caucus Chairwoman Gloria Rembert asked council members to meet with caucus leaders. “We understand that this is short notice,” she wrote in emails, “however, we believe this matter to be of vital importance to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community.”
Rembert declined to discuss the invitations.
But Fallon said she won’t meet with the caucus leaders.
“I don’t like the pressure,” she said. “And I’m going to do what I think is right and will not be pressured. All I want now is somebody with stature and integrity who is above reproach so we can get back to the business of the city.”
Some council members have said they want to make their choice contingent on a promise that the next mayor won’t run in 2015. They say that would give the incumbent an unfair advantage.
That’s not something every member would insist on.
“I think that’s unreasonable,” Autry said. “We should pick a good person, a person who can help restore the reputation of this city. And why would we want to appoint somebody as a lame duck? … I don’t think we should hamstring the city.”