Politics & Government

NC state Sen. Dan Clodfelter among top candidates for Charlotte mayor

A Democratic state senator appears to be emerging as a strong candidate to be named the next mayor of Charlotte, though the field – and even the timetable for selection – remains in flux.

That’s based on interviews Friday with several City Council members, who could vote as early as Monday on someone to replace former Mayor Patrick Cannon, who resigned Wednesday after his arrest on corruption charges.

Though allegiances could change, one council member says Sen. Dan Clodfelter appears close to having the six votes he needs to be elected.

“If everybody holds together he’s fine,” said Democratic council member Claire Fallon. “He’s got the prestige. He’s a good leader.”

But the whirlwind jockeying will continue to play out at least over the weekend.

Cannon’s abrupt departure came on the heels of a 42-page FBI affidavit that alleged he took more than $48,000 in cash, plane tickets and other items in exchange for using his office to promise favors.

Cannon won office just last November after a monthslong campaign that cost more than $660,000. In contrast, the current selection process could take as little as five days.

The person selected would serve until at least December 2015, the remainder of Cannon’s term. By law, the person has to be a Democrat like Cannon.

Other candidates

Clodfelter, 63, an eight-term state senator and former City Council member, is one of several outsiders interested in the job, as are some current council members. The list includes former Mecklenburg County commissioners’ Chairwoman Jennifer Roberts and former council member – and current congressional candidate – James Mitchell.

“I’ve talked to a few members of council to let them know if they do decide to look outside council I would be willing to consider it,” Roberts said Friday.

Mitchell lost last year’s Democratic primary to Cannon. He issued a statement Friday, a day after taking part in a 12th Congressional District forum.

“I have been approached, have had conversations and have given it a lot of thought,” Mitchell said. “In light of the recent developments, if I were asked to serve my city again, I would definitely consider it.”

Clodfelter could not be reached. However on Thursday he said he would give “very, very serious consideration” if the post were offered.

Quick appointment?

Just as there’s no universal consensus on a new mayor, there’s no agreement on a timetable for naming one.

Democrat David Howard said the council should move quickly.

“I actually think we need to do it Monday,” he said. “The community needs to know we’re going to move forward. I don’t know what dragging it out does.”

But others say they want the decision delayed.

“It would just be too rushed of a decision,” said Greg Phipps, a Democrat.

Democrat Patsy Kinsey, who served as mayor for five months last year, said she’d also like the process to last a little longer. She said she’s interested in serving again.

“I would not stand here and say I’m not interested,” she said.

Neither would Howard.

“Before I see us going in a direction I don’t think would be healthy for the city, I would offer myself,” said Howard, who declined to say what circumstances might prompt his candidacy.

Democrat Vi Lyles, a freshman at-large member and former assistant city manager, also could be a contender.

Phipps said while he has no favorite candidate, Clodfelter “would bring a stature to the position.” While his election would create a vacancy in the Senate, Phipps said, it wouldn’t create another one on the council.

Republican Ed Driggs said he believes Clodfelter could help restore public confidence in city government. “I don’t think I’m the only one who recognizes he would be a strong candidate,” Driggs said.

While he hasn’t made up his mind on a candidate, Republican Kenny Smith said “from what I hear (Clodfelter) could have votes.”

“Dan Clodfelter has many of the qualities that the city may need at this time,” he said. “He is known to have high integrity. He is known to be a smart, smart guy and he is willing to listen to all facets of issues.”

Kinsey cautioned that no preferences are set in stone.

“People can change their minds in an instant,” she said.

Related stories from Charlotte Observer