Politics & Government

James ‘Smuggie’ Mitchell drops out of race to replace U.S. Rep. Mel Watt

Former Charlotte City Council member James “Smuggie” Mitchell dropped out of the 12th Congressional District race Monday, citing the crowded field and his inability to raise money.

Mitchell’s departure follows the City Council’s decision last week to bypass him as a replacement for former Mayor Patrick Cannon. Cannon, who was arrested March 26 on public corruption charges, defeated Mitchell in the Democratic mayoral primary last year.

Mitchell was one of six Democrats running for the U.S. House seat held by Mel Watt, who left office in January to become head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

In his withdrawal letter, Mitchell said his campaign finance report Tuesday “will reflect disappointing financial results in the past quarter. It became clear that it was not possible to be competitive, let alone win the race.”

Mitchell also alluded to his unsuccessful run for mayor and being approached to serve as Cannon’s successor until voters choose a full-time replacement next year.

“It was an honor to be considered for these leadership roles,” he said. “I wish we had done better, but I certainly do not regret trying. My motivation began and ended with serving the citizens of this community, regardless of how things turned out.”

In debating a mayoral replacement, several council members said Mitchell deserved the job because he gave up his seat to run against Cannon. The council instead voted to appoint state Sen. Dan Clodfelter.

Mitchell said his immediate plans are to “step back and focus on my family and professional career.” He could not be reached for comment Monday.

His departure from the congressional race leaves three Charlotteans vying for the seat. They are attorneys Curtis Osborne and George Battle III, along with state Sen. Malcolm Graham. The field also includes three Greensboro candidates. Researcher Maria David contributed.