Uptown skyscrapers. African-American landmarks. Troubled neighborhoods. Prosperous suburbs.
Few Charlotte City Council districts are as geographically diverse as District 2, which fans north and west from uptown along Beatties Ford and Sugar Creek roads to the Outer Belt and beyond.
Six in 10 voters are African-American. And 61 percent are Democrats.
Three Democrats are running in the Sept. 12 primary for the district that had been represented by Democrat Al Austin, who resigned to take a job with the state. The council appointed Carlenia Ivory, who is not running.
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J’Tanya Adams, Eric Erickson and Justin Harlow are competing for the seat. A fourth Democrat, Michael McLean, dropped out though too late to remove his name from the ballot.
The winner faces Republican Pete Givens in November.
Two of the Democrats are neighborhood leaders with prominent supporters. Two are native Charlotteans. One is a dentist. One runs a non-profit. The other is a state domestic violence officer.
Here’s a look at the three candidates:
▪ J’Tanya Adams, 54: Once a single mom who lived in subsidized housing, Adams parlayed a computer operations course at Central Piedmont Community College into a 20-year career with The Hearst Corp., where she helped manage information technology.
Now she’s regional manager for EveryoneOn, a national nonprofit trying to close the “digital divide” by putting affordable internet connections and computers in low-income households.
Adams has been active in her neighborhood near Johnson C. Smith University. She founded Historic West End Partners, which advocates for residents and businesses.
Supporters include former Mayor Harvey Gantt, retired Bank of America Chairman Hugh McColl Jr. and former Mecklenburg Commissioner Darrel Williams.
“I’m experienced across a lot of platforms: corporate and nonprofit and grassroots,” Adams said. “I’m the people’s candidate from the block to the boardroom.”
▪ Eric Erickson, 53: Before Erickson made a career in law enforcement, he was a student of it.
He got degrees from CPCC and later Appalachian State in criminology. He then got a master’s in organization change management and leadership from Pfeiffer University.
He worked on the police force at Livingstone College and for the town of Cornelius before becoming a domestic violence officer for the state. It’s a career that’s now spanned more than two decades.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for 21 years so who knows the needs better?” he said. “I saw a need and that’s why I’m running.”
Last November, Erickson ran for Soil and Water Conservation Supervisor. He lost, but got more than 72,000 votes.
▪ Justin Harlow, 29: Harlow has only been in Charlotte for about four years but that hasn’t stopped him from getting involved.
He’s president of the Biddleville-Smallwood Community Organization, sits on a West End advisory committee for Charlotte Center City Partners and the state Democratic Party executive committee.
An Atlanta native, he graduated from Emory University and got a dental degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. He now has his own practice in Steele Creek. Supporters include civil rights pioneers Dorothy Counts Scoggins and Charles Jones as well as community leader Mattie Marshall. He’s also endorsed by the Black Political Caucus.
As a relative newcomer who’s planted roots and gotten involved, he sees himself as reflecting the bustling city that he has adopted. “For me, it’s simple,” he said. “You want a representative of what our community looks like now and what we want our community to look like in the future.”