Michael Barnes has the longest City Council tenure of anyone running for mayor, and he was the top vote-getter in the 2013 election.
But Barnes’s low-key campaign style, and a lack of interest in raising money, has made him something of an underdog in the Sept. 15 Democratic primary.
Barnes believes his record of being fiscally conservative will resonate with voters.
“In order to avoid the liberal or conservative label, I tell people I am a moderate,” said Barnes, who has been the Mayor Pro Tem since 2013. “If we can accomplish something without raising taxes, we will do it. I don’t like spending money just because we have it.”
For the last two years, Barnes has chaired the city’s economic development committee, which considers tax incentives for companies seeking to relocate to the city or expand existing Charlotte facilities. He has generally supported those deals.
Barnes has been an adamant critic of the streetcar, which opened last month. He said his biggest complaint is that the city is using general fund tax dollars to pay for it. As mayor, he said he would veto raising taxes to pay for the streetcar.
Barnes has rankled some Democratic council members, who question whether Barnes has a vision for the city, instead of saying what he is against. He also upset colleagues when he voted against expanding a non-discrimination ordinance in March to include LGBT residents.
If we can accomplish something without raising taxes, we will do it. I don't like spending money just because we have it.
On the council, he has often sided with Republicans on budget issues.
If Barnes wins the Democratic primary, he would likely be attacked by Republicans Scott Stone or Edwin Peacock in the general election over his ties to former Mayor Patrick Cannon.
Barnes and Cannon were political allies on the City Council, and were briefly business partners.
During the federal investigation of Cannon, Barnes was interviewed by the FBI but never charged with any wrongdoing. He has said he did nothing wrong. Steve Harrison
Hometown: Rocky Mount
Family: Wife, three school-age kids
Education: UNC-Chapel Hill, BA; law degree N.C. Central University
Political experience: Charlotte city council member since 2005
Community service: Former volunteer with Mecklenburg County Democratic Party; former stakeholder with Rocky River Road Area Plan stakeholders group
Worth knowing: “My wife and children are the best part of my life.”
Meet the candidates in Charlotte’s mayoral primary
Read profiles of other candidates vying to be Charlotte’s next mayor in the Sept. 15 primary.