Politics & Government

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles files for re-election — and even a former foe is supporting her

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles kicked off her re-election campaign Thursday, touting accomplishments and vowing to build on them in a second term.

“What is happening today is the opportunity to continue the progress,” she told reporters at the board of elections.

Lyles, a 66-year-old Democrat, is trying to become the first mayor to win a second term since Democrat Anthony Foxx in 2011. He left before his second term expired to become U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

So far Lyles faces Democratic newcomer Joel Odom, 20, and perennial Republican candidate David Michael Rice, who once called his political committee the “Ricetown Royal Republic.”

Though filing runs until July 19, Lyles has yet to attract the kind of top-tier opponent she faced in Republican Kenny Smith, who spent more than $650,000 against her in 2017. One Republican who campaigned against her then doesn’t plan to this year.

“Vi Lyles is doing a good job,” Mark Knoop, a Republican strategist who leads Forward Charlotte, a group that campaigned against Lyles in 2017, told the Observer last month. “Our interest is seeing qualified leaders get elected and good policy being enacted.”

Lyles, a former City Council member and city budget director, touted efforts to create more affordable housing. Last fall Charlotte voters passed a $50 million referendum for affordable housing. And the Foundation for the Carolinas is raising another $50 million from private sources.

This month, the City Council is expected to vote on eight affordable housing projects totaling 950 units.

Lyles pledged to work on transportation initiatives including “rebuilding” the bus system and finding money to expand light rail. She said she also wants to improve public safety. The city already has seen more homicides than it did all of last year.

“We can’t afford to have the losses we’ve had,” Lyles said.

Lyles was asked if she has had second thoughts about inviting the 2020 Republican National Convention to town. She and other Democrats who supported the convention have drawn fire from within their party.

“When you’re elected mayor, you represent every citizen of this community and that includes Republicans,” she said. “They don’t run our city; they’re visiting our city.”

She said she hasn’t changed her mind about not speaking at the convention.

Staff writer Kristi Sturgill contributed.