Politics & Government

GOP lawmaker backtracks on voting plan after suggestions it could help Jennifer Roberts

Charlotte Mayoral Democratic Primary Debate Kickoff

Incumbent Mayor Jennifer Roberts, Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles, and state Senator Joel Ford at the Charlotte Mayoral Democratic Primary Debate Kickoff at Weeping Willow A.M.E. Zion Church.
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Incumbent Mayor Jennifer Roberts, Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles, and state Senator Joel Ford at the Charlotte Mayoral Democratic Primary Debate Kickoff at Weeping Willow A.M.E. Zion Church.

A runoff in Charlotte’s mayoral primary, eliminated in one version of a House bill, could return in a new version.

One reason: Because dropping it could help Mayor Jennifer Roberts.

House Bill 843 eliminated the primary runoff at the request of elections officials, who said a runoff would conflict with their schedule of certifying votes from the first primary while preparing for a second.

The bill passed a House committee Wednesday and was scheduled for a vote by the full House in that night’s marathon session. But it was pulled from consideration late Wednesday and again Thursday. The sponsor, Republican Rep. Davis Lewis of Harnett County, said he’s working on a change.

“After (HB 843) passed House Elections and Ethics committee yesterday, we heard from some folks who had concerns about the elimination of second primaries,” he said in a statement. “As a result, we are working on trying to find a solution that works for the local boards of election as well as allows the voters to elect a candidate of their choice that clears the threshold in current law.”

The move came after the Observer ran a story online Wednesday that suggested the elimination of a runoff could benefit Roberts, who faces fellow Democrats Joel Ford, a state senator, and Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles in the primary. Incumbents typically fare better in a crowded field. A runoff could consolidate the opposition around a single candidate.

Asked if changing the bill had anything to do with the Charlotte election, Lewis smiled and said news stories sometimes affect public policy.

Roberts’ campaign used the first version of the House bill to raise money Thursday.

In an email to supporters, campaign manager Sam Spencer said HB 843 would eliminate a runoff.

“That means if we don’t finish in first in the primary election on September 12th, we don’t get another shot,” he wrote. “Our plan has always been to win the primary outright. … However, if this bill passes, it’s a game changer.”

The bill is going back to Lewis’ elections committee.

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill

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