Elections

South Charlotte incumbent runs as ‘true conservative,’ challenger pledges bipartisanship

City Council member Ed Driggs is running for a fourth term against primary challenger Victoria Nwasike.
City Council member Ed Driggs is running for a fourth term against primary challenger Victoria Nwasike.

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In south Charlotte, a member of the city’s planning commission is running a formidable campaign for City Council to unseat Republican council member Ed Driggs.

Driggs, previous chair of Charlotte’s economic development and budget committee, is running for his fourth term on City Council from District 7. Victoria Nwasike, currently chair of South Charlotte Partners, a civic advocacy group, is the challenger.

No Democrats filed to run in District 7. Driggs and Nwasike face off in the Republican primary Sept. 10.

Both candidates say constituents in District 7 want greater police presence in their neighborhoods, especially to combat speeding and concerns about property crimes. Driggs and Nwasike say they’re concerned with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s ability to recruit and retain officers. And, neither candidate supports the ballot question to raise Mecklenburg County’s sales tax for funding arts initiatives.

Nwasike, currently appointed to the city’s planning and zoning commission, has raised nearly $34,000 for her campaign. But Driggs has more cash on hand, according to the latest campaign finance reports from early August.

Driggs reported $23,000 in individual campaign contributions so far, along with a $25,000 loan he made to his campaign. Individual campaign donations to Nwasike through the end of July totaled about $32,000 and Nwasike reported a $1,000 contribution from BAM PAC, a political action committee that supports black conservative candidates at the local, state and federal level.

BEHIND OUR REPORTING

How we did this story

We asked each candidate running for Charlotte City Council to complete a questionnaire about themselves and their position on three important issues facing residents and the city. Every candidate received the same opportunity to answer via written statement a uniform set of questions. Some answers were minimally-edited for clarity and brevity. In most cases, those running for office also participated in interviews with reporters.

Additional elections coverage is available on the Charlotte Observer’s politics and government news page.

District location

District 7 is Charlotte’s southernmost City Council district and covers mostly residential and retail areas along Providence, Pineville-Matthew and Rea roads, as well as neighborhoods in and around Ballantyne, Sardis Forest, Piper Glen and the Arboretum.

Who votes

The largest voting bloc of registered voters, almost 40%, in District 7 are unaffiliated but the area leans Republican (in the last presidential election, for example, most precincts in the district went for President Donald Trump). About one-fourth of the district’s voters are registered Democrats.

About the candidates

The incumbent, Driggs, 69, is retired from corporate banking with Goldman Sachs and has lived in Charlotte for 17 years.

One of just two Republicans on City Council, Driggs says he’s running as “a true conservative that never caves into the majority vote.” For example, Driggs opposed the council’s recent adoption of a new sound ordinance, which critics said would infringe on free speech and alleged Democrats on council used to target ongoing protests outside a Charlotte abortion clinic.

Nwasike, 41, is a former corporate defense lawyer and previously worked as the international business development manager for the Iowa Economic Development Authority. She moved to Charlotte about four years ago and founded her own economic development firm, Goldencrest Global.

Nwasike says she values grassroots efforts to improve Charlotte and says she’s willing to “reach across the aisle and collaborate with everybody.”

Candidate Q&A

With homicide and other violent crime on the rise, what steps would you take to try to reduce crime?

Driggs: “In order to improve CMPD recruiting, retention and morale, I have successfully advocated for significant increases in police pay and benefits. I have also strongly defended CMPD against accusations of bias when other council members were silent. Chief Putney has stressed that releasing repeat offenders on bail is dangerous, council should work with other government agencies to increase the capacity of the courts and keep violent criminals in custody. Longer term, the crime problem cannot be solved only by arresting and imprisoning people. Council should focus on implementing those recommendations of the Economic Opportunity Task force that fall within its scope.”

Nwasike: “The rise in violent crime is disturbing, and we must examine the root causes of the rising violent crime rate and address these issues — whether it be drug and alcohol addiction, a lack of economic opportunity or the need for more vocational training. Additionally, with many CMPD officers expected to retire soon and the department’s inability to recruit and retain new officers, the number of violent crimes could continue to increase. We must take a serious look at what can be done to help attract and maintain officers — above and beyond current efforts.”

What should the city do that it is not doing already to increase the amount of affordable housing and offset the pressures of gentrification?

Driggs: “The city is investing $100 million over two bond cycles in a large-scale affordable housing initiative that includes new construction, refurbishment and preservation of existing affordable housing. I voted in favor of the current city budget, which includes a $25 million increase in housing funds. This investment is leveraged by private sector funds to maximize the return on taxpayer investment. In order to use the funds most effectively, the city should focus on who gets to live in the units, with emphasis on need and people who have been displaced by gentrification and have nowhere to go.”

Nwasike: “The city should thoroughly review and reform our zoning regulations and building regulations with a focus on reducing the cost of building housing, both single family and multi-family, across the city. Reducing the cost to build will have the dual effect of increasing the supply of housing and reducing rent and housing prices.” Nwasike says she proposes moving pending affordable housing development requests to the front of the line for consideration by city committees, to eliminate “months of delays.”

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