South Charlotte

Bill James faces competition in District 6

Long-time District 6 County Commissioner Bill James is gearing up for his first contested primary election in years.

Piper Glen resident Ed Driggs plans to challenge James for the Republican nomination for the seat, which James has held since 1996.

James, a CPA, is in the middle of his eighth two-year term serving the area, which includes south Charlotte, Pineville and Matthews.

A retired analyst for Goldman Sachs, Driggs, 62, moved from Connecticut to Charlotte 10 years ago with his wife, Caroline, and his two children, Lili and Ted, who attended South Charlotte Middle and then the I.B. program at Myers Park High.

Driggs said he's been building his campaign for about eight months. "I've reached out to a lot of people in the community and District 6," he said. "I've been encouraged by their support and enthusiasm."

James said he found out in December that Driggs planned to run.

He mentioned his competitor in a recent fundraising letter to 700 of his supporters:

"I don't believe in raising funds unless they are needed for campaign purposes," the letter read. "For that reason, I have not sent out requests over the last few years, but now that I know that this individual is running, I too must start the process of raising funds to keep District 6 in conservative hands. Times are hard but we will use your money wisely."

James has attacked Driggs' voting record in local primary elections. Public records that go back to 2004 show Driggs voted in all of the general elections except 2009 but only voted in the 2007 primary.

"Republican primaries are made up of the faithful - they come out rain or shine," said James. "If a guy is going to run to represent the most Republican district of the county, he's got to be Republican enough to vote (in the primary)."

Driggs has declined to comment on James' recent comments until he officially announces his candidacy and unrolls his campaign platform in the next couple of weeks.

But, said Driggs, "I hope that when the time comes, and we do start to talk about the issues, that (James) will have more important things on his mind than what he's talking about now."

James admits he is an outspoken and often polarizing figure but says his record of defending taxpayer dollars speaks for itself.

"I'm kind of an open book," said James. "I'm an advocate for my people."

Official candidate filing for the primary election opens noon Feb. 13 and closes noon Feb. 29.

The primary election is May 8.