Politics & Government

Jennifer Roberts’ campaign calls remarks from black caucus ‘false and personal’

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.

What started with an apparent misunderstanding between Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts’ campaign and the head of Charlotte’s Black Political Caucus escalated over the weekend after a news release about a caucus-sponsored candidate debate.

Caucus Chair Colette Forrest’s Sunday release said Roberts would not participate in a May 18 mayoral debate.

“It just makes us feel that she does not respect nor truly value the African-American vote,” Forrest wrote. On Monday she emailed again, asking, “Are African-Americans Mere Facebook Props to Mayor Jennifer Roberts?”

But Roberts will attend the debate, or at least part of it.

“The press release is false,” Sam Spencer, Roberts’ campaign manager said Monday. “Mayor Roberts is attending the debate. … Yet again, these attacks on Mayor Roberts are out of bounds, totally false, and personal.”

Roberts is running against Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles and state Sen. Joel Ford in the Democratic primary. Both are African-American. Black voters are nearly two out of three Democratic voters in Charlotte, and black support will be crucial in a Democratic primary.

On getting an invitation to the debate last week, Spencer emailed a caucus official. He said Roberts had multiple commitments on May 18 and another event that night at 7 p.m. that day. He said she’d have a “30-minute window at most” for the 6 p.m. debate. He also called it “pretty late notice.”

“There’s nowhere in that language that I see a ‘yes.’ ” Forrest said Monday.

Spencer said Roberts has a 7 p.m. commitment to attend an awards banquet for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

In 2015, Forrest worked for David Howard, one of Roberts’ rivals in the Democratic primary. She released statements shortly before the primary that claimed Roberts had quit the Mecklenburg County board and not been a classroom teacher as she claimed. Roberts’ then-campaign manager called the statements “out of bounds, totally false, and personal.”

Forrest said Monday that “there’s no bad blood between Roberts and I.”

“I have not said anything negative about her since her election,” she said. “Don’t try to make this a story about me and Roberts because that dog is not going to hunt.”

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill

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