The Democratic primary for three at-large Mecklenburg County commissioner seats has drawn a large field, with four newcomers challenging the three incumbents.
Ella Scarborough, the board's chair, and Pat Cotham and Trevor Fuller are all seeking re-election.
The winners of the May 8 primary will be favored in the November general election. There is only one Republican candidate running, Jeremy Brasch.
One of the most contentious issues being debated is the 287(g) program, a partnership the Mecklenburg Sheriff's Office has with the federal government. The program allows local enforcement to conduct some federal immigration duties, including questioning people arrested about their immigration status and detaining them until the federal government investigates.
Commissioners fund the Sheriff's Office, though they do not manage it. The sheriff is an elected position. Activists have called on commissioners to pressure the sheriff to end the program.
Cotham, first elected in 2012, has become a vocal opponent of the Interstate 77 toll lane project in north Mecklenburg. She is part of a N.C. Department of Transportation task force researching other options.
Cotham opposed a county plan to rebuild Memorial Stadium for a proposed Major League Soccer team, but backed a smaller plan to rebuild the stadium for the Charlotte Independence minor-league soccer team.
When it comes to the 287(g) program, Cotham said, "I have asked, and I have been told the county cannot compel (the sheriff) to change it."
Gerenda Davis, a nearly 30-year veteran of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, is one of the challengers.
She said she opposes the 287(g) program and said commissioners could find a way to pressure the sheriff's office to end it. "There are other ways we can get that (immigration) information," she said.
She also said the county's health department needs to improve and public schools need more money.
Fuller, in his third term, supported County Manager Dena Diorio's plan to rebuild Memorial Stadium for Major League Soccer, and also backed her scaled-back plan for a new minor-league stadium on the site.
Fuller said he does not support 287(g) and favors a resolution to end the program.
Fuller has said he was focused on economic mobility, and that he pushed to form the Economic Opportunity Task Force that "has resulted in such a robust community response."
Jamie Hildreth, who is on leave from Wells Fargo, is active in local politics, including being on the board of MeckPAC, an LGBT political action committee.
He said he's running because he believes the county board is "consistently overlooked."
He said he is "staunchly against" the 287(g) program, and said he would consider reducing the sheriff's office budget to pressure the sheriff to opt out.
He said he wants the county to work closer with the city to build affordable housing. He also said he would focus on reducing the county's rate of new HIV infections, among the highest in the nation.
Ray McKinnon, a pastor at South Tryon Community United Methodist Church, said he is running in part to restore civility to the county board. He said the board often gets too bogged down quarreling among each other.
As an activist, he urged Police Chief Kerr Putney to drop the special events ordinance, which was passed before the 2012 Democratic National Convention and gave police more leeway to search people during special events uptown.
McKinnon said he opposes the 287(g) program, and that he would urge the sheriff's office to end its partnership with the federal government. But he said he would not vote to cut the office's funding in an effort to force it to drop 287(g).
McKinnon said the county should work to build affordable housing, and look at using its surplus land for housing.
Tigress Sydney Acute McDaniel is also running. She has declined to answer questions from the Observer.
▪ In District 2, Angela Edwards, who works in nursing, is challenging incumbent Vilma Leake in the Democratic primary. There is no Republican in the race.
▪ In District 3, incumbent George Dunlap faces two challengers: Angela R. Ambroise and George (Giovanni) Dortche. There is no Republican in the race.
Dortche is a member of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee. Ambroise is in real estate.
▪ The most competitive district race is for Dumont Clarke's District 4 seat. Clarke is not running again. District 4 covers much of east Charlotte, as well as parts of uptown and South End.
Leigh Altman, Mark Jerrell and Queen Thompson — who haven't held elected office before — are running. The three are newcomers to politics, and haven't held elected office before.
Altman, a former attorney, said the county must work together to improve economic mobility.
"For too long, many of our local leaders have treated each other with hostility and failed to collaborate for the common good," she said.
Altman said she opposes 287(g), but did not say whether she would try to compel the sheriff's office to drop the program.
Jerrell, a vice president at his family-owned Speech Therapy company, said he does not support the 287(g) program.
"I believe this program is legalized profiling and it has an adverse economic and social impact on our community," he said, adding he would take a "multi-faceted approach" to ending it. To improve economic mobility, Jerrell said the focus should be on schools.
Thompson has worked in social services for a number of governmental and private organizations.
When asked about 287(g), Thompson said, she has "mixed feelings."
"I feel sorry for those persons, who are law bidding citizens," she said. "On the other hand, we need some type of control as to who is coming into the country."
To improve economic mobility, she said she'd focus on public schools and intensive workforce development programs.