Voters face an unsatisfying choice in the race for the District 2 seat on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners. School board member Vilma Leake, a Democrat, faces political newcomer Tim McLeod, a Republican. We cannot recommend either candidate as a strong commissioner for the district.
Leake has been a Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board member for 11 years. She has been a vocal supporter of her district, particularly poor and minority constituents.
But her effectiveness has been compromised by her often-divisive approach. The school board's public bickering about petty matters has frequently undercut its ability to tackle the huge challenges the school system faces. Leake has been a regular contributor to that environment. The board of county commissioners has often suffered the same kind of fractiousness and Leake would likely add to that.
In fact, there's evidence that she is fostering such division within her own party. On Sunday, the Black Political Caucus reportedly considered “un-endorsing” Democratic commissioners chairwoman Jennifer Roberts. Leake, who acknowledges attending the meeting, reportedly seconded the motion to strip Roberts of the caucus' support. She would not discuss the vote or her role in it on Monday, but the whole affair had familiar overtones. Critics say that Leake's very candidacy was motivated primarily by politics, targeting incumbent Norman Mitchell after he declined to support Nick Mackey in a contentious bid for sheriff.
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McLeod, the Republican, is a fourth-generation native Charlottean making his first run for public office. He has a respectable familiarity with Mecklenburg County government and the issues the board of commissioners deals with. He has no public record to judge, but says he is an active volunteer with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and substance abuse groups, mentors UNC Charlotte students and helps build homes on mission trips with his church.
However McLeod's passion around cutting taxes, minimizing government, cutting CMS spending and walking in lockstep with the other Republicans on the board does not match the political leanings of a majority of voters in his central and southwest Charlotte district, which is only 17 percent Republican.
Voters, then, must choose between an experienced but ineffective public official and an inexperienced but knowledgeable candidate whose views are different than most of theirs.
In District 1, which encompasses northern Mecklenburg County, we recommend incumbent Republican Karen Bentley.
In her first term on the board, she has proven to be an engaged representative who works hard and knows her district well. We do not agree with her on some issues, but she has done a respectable job advocating for her constituents and not being overly partisan.
Her opponent, Democrat Rao Kommareddi, is vice president of G & R Casters and Wheels in Charlotte, a family-owned company. A native of India, he has been active in his neighborhood homeowners association and other community activities.
But his ideas about issues facing the county are simple and unspecific, and he does not offer a compelling argument for unseating the incumbent Bentley.