Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, an outspoken proponent of Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance, got donations from LGBT advocates.
Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles, a former city official, found support from former City Hall colleagues.
And Democratic state Sen. Joel Ford got help from fellow lawmakers – mainly Republicans.
Meanwhile Kenny Smith, a City Council member and leading GOP candidate, had a cash advantage over all of those Democrats less than four weeks before the start of early primary voting.
New reports show that Smith, backed by many of Charlotte’s traditional Republican donors, started the month with nearly $308,000 on hand. That compares to $230,000 for Roberts, $106,000 for Lyles and $96,000 for Ford.
They’re the leading contenders in a field of eight mayoral candidates. Primaries for each party are Sept. 12. Early voting starts Aug. 24.
The reports reflect the long fight over North Carolina’s House Bill 2, known as the “bathroom bill.”
Until repealed this year, the law required transgender people to use the bathroom or locker room of the gender on their birth certificate. The Republican-backed bill came in response to an anti-discrimination ordinance passed by City Council Democrats.
Roberts got $5,200 from the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, a leading critic of HB2. Equality NC, which works closely with the HRC, said last week that the two groups may spend more on the mayor’s race this fall.
Roberts also got almost $4,000 from Charlotte businessman and LGBT advocate Billy Maddalon, $100 from then-private attorney John Arrowood, one of North Carolina’s first openly gay judges (who also gave to Lyles), and $250 from Annise Parker, the first openly gay mayor of Houston, Texas.
Roberts’ defense of the Charlotte ordinance and persistent criticism of the General Assembly made her unpopular among GOP lawmakers.
Ford got a total of $8,400 from seven GOP lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, Senate Rules Chairman Bill Rabon and House Rules Chair David Lewis. By contrast, he got $1,700 from four Democratic lawmakers.
Sen. Tommy Tucker, a Union County Republican who gave Ford $1,000, said Roberts is “extremely liberal and … bad medicine for Charlotte.” He called Ford “a common-sense Democrat.”
Ford said Charlotte Democrats should welcome his GOP support.
“The city of Charlotte can’t accomplish anything … without help from the legislature,” Ford said. “What that says is I have credibility and I have the ability to work with Republicans for the city of Charlotte to get things done.”
The reports also showed that:
▪ Roberts raised a third of her money – more than $97,000 – from out of state, according to an Observer analysis. Of her biggest individual donors, most were out-of-state.
Her husband, Manley, donated $5,200, and she got a total of $15,100 from three Beaumont, Texas, donors: Muhammad T. Javed, Tehmeena Jabeen and Mohammad S. Javed. Florida developer Don Peebles, whose firm was selected by the county to redevelop Brooklyn Village, gave $2,000. Roberts also raised thousands from the city’s international community.
“I am proud to have received over 1,000 contributions from Charlotte and … that the vast majority of the money we’ve raised … has come from Charlotte and Mecklenburg County,” Roberts said in a statement. “Our supporters know that nobody fights harder for the Queen City than I do.”
▪ Lyles, a former budget director and assistant city manager, got support from former City Manager Pam Syfert, former assistant manager Julie Burch and former city lobbyist Boyd Cauble. She also got money from former Mayor Eddie Knox, former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl Jr. and former U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins.
In addition to support from city establishment figures, Lyles said her 1,600 donors show “what a connection I’m having on an individual level.” Hundreds of those donors gave less than $10. Around $10,500 came from outside North Carolina.
“I told people that it’s really important to show their support,” she said. “When I called people, I said give whatever you can. I appreciate that.”
▪ Ford got contributions from Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and former receiver Muhsin Muhammad. He also got money from Cameron Harris, an insurance executive, and his brother John, a prominent developer. He received $28,000 from out of state.
In addition, Ford also got support from Frank Dowd IV, chairman of Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Company, and his family, who are generally conservative donors.
“What you’re seeing is a diverse, bipartisan support for my leadership and for the vision that I have for the city,” Ford said. “My campaign report is reflective of all of Charlotte, not just a segment of it.”
▪ Smith also got money from the Dowds who contributed to Ford. He tapped former GOP mayoral candidates Edwin Peacock and John Lassiter and NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick.
How much Smith got out-of-state could not be determined, since his report was not immediately available electronically. He said most of his money came from Charlotte.
“I think Charlotteans are ready to have a mayor again that focuses on local issues instead of flying to New York, California, Texas and Washington, D.C., to try to raise money,” he said.
An earlier version of this story overstated the cash advantage of Republican Kenny Smith.
Staff writer Gavin Off contributed.