Politics & Government

George Battle makes 12th District bid for Congress his first run

George Battle III doesn’t buy the argument.

How can a man who’s never held public office, they say, run for Congress against candidates with years of elected experience?

“We don’t need to keep electing the same people and sending them to different places,” Battle says. “Just because you’ve been somewhere for a long time doesn’t entitle you to be somewhere else.”

Battle, a 41-year-old Democrat, claims more relevant experience than 12th District rivals who’ve held elective office.

He’s been general counsel for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board for four years and held a similar position with Carolinas Healthcare System for 11 years.

He calls the Affordable Care Act “a good start” that doesn’t go far enough toward universal health care coverage. And he calls for looking at funding education “with same priority as we do with funding other critical national security needs.”

The bishop

While Battle is new to the ballot, the name is not.

His father, George Battle Jr., was a former chairman and longtime member of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board. He’s also a prominent AME Zion bishop long active in the Charlotte community.

His son was starting kindergarten when the elder Battle was first elected to the school board in 1978. The younger Battle accompanied his father to school and church meetings.

“He really impressed on me the importance of being active in the community,” the younger Battle says.

The candidate, in addition to tapping his own support from the worlds of business and education, has been helped by his father’s admirers.

‘Perry Mason’

As a kid, Battle sometimes stayed with his grandparents in Rock Hill. He was around when his grandfather watched reruns of “Perry Mason.”

“He always told me, ‘That’s what I want you to be,’ ” Battle says.

On a lark, the young Battle wrote to Charlotte attorney and civil rights pioneer Julius Chambers. Chambers wrote back, describing his work and the legal profession.

“That stuck with me,” Battle says. “Here he was, a giant of the legal profession, and I was a 7-year-old kid.”

After graduating from UNC Chapel Hill and working for Duke Energy for a year, Battle went on to UNC Law School. Later, as a hospital attorney, he found himself on opposite sides of a case with Chambers. He reminded Chambers of the letter.

The president

Battle’s political career started early. He was student body president in junior high, then at West Charlotte High and later at UNC Chapel Hill. Then he stopped running.

“I’m not one of those folks just seeking office for the sake of seeking office,” he says. “I needed to get established in my career.”

Battle has served on the board of legal groups, including the Mecklenburg County bar. He’s also vice chair of the board of the Community Building Initiative.

As schools attorney in 2012, he irritated advocates of open meetings when he argued, with Superintendent Heath Morrison, that CMS task forces were exempt from the state’s open meetings law. Morrison later relented and opened the meetings.

“Your job is to give your client the best advice to make the best decision,” he says.