Elections

If you wait to November to vote, Charlotte’s city elections could be over

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Charlotte mayoral, council election coverage

Residents will vote for candidates for mayor, city council at-large and district races in the Sept. 10 primary.

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For the first time in years, virtually all the races for Charlotte’s mayor and city council will be decided in Tuesday’s primaries, and not in November’s general election.

Consider:

City voters in effect will elect four district council members Tuesday who are unopposed in November, and two others who will be favored in their heavily Democratic districts.

Voters will essentially elect four at-large council members who will go on to face a single GOP newcomer in a race no Republican has won since 2009.

And Mayor Vi Lyles faces three other Democrats who have each run for office multiple times and a 20-year-old student who wouldn’t be eligible for office until the election. If Lyles wins she’ll face a perennial GOP candidate. No Republican has been elected mayor since 2007.

“Given trends in voting behavior in Charlotte, like a lot of urban areas, the Democratic primary has become even more important for determining what happens in the election outcome,” said Aaron Houck, a political scientist at Queens University of Charlotte.

Charlotte has grown increasingly Democratic. Almost half the registered voters are Democrats. A third are unaffiliated. And fewer than one in five are Republican.

Only in southeast District 7, where incumbent Ed Driggs faces newcomer Victoria Nwasike, will Republican voters essentially choose a council member. No Democrat is running in the district.

Not since Pat McCrory left office in 2009 has a Republican held the mayor’s seat. And it’s not for lack of trying.

In 2017, after beating incumbent Jennifer Roberts in the Democratic primary, she went on to win 59% of the vote against Republican Kenny Smith, who spent $650,000. Smith was the latest in a string of Republicans to mount a serious mayoral challenge.

In the at-large race, five incumbents are among seven Democrats running for four seats. At-large incumbents Dimple Ajmera, Julie Eiselt, James Mitchell and Braxton Winston face current District 3 incumbent LaWana Mayfield as well as newcomers Jorge Millares and Chad Stachowicz.

The only Republican running in November is newcomer Joshua Richardson. At-large races once determined which party controlled the council. But the last Republican elected was Edwin Peacock in 2009. He lost two years later.

Primaries will be pivotal for all but one district race:

District 1: Incumbent Democrat Larken Egleston faces newcomer Sean Smith in this central Charlotte district. No Republican is running.

District 2: The retirement of Democratic council member Justin Harlow opened this seat. Vying to replace him is real estate investor Jeremy Arey; Jessica Davis, a lawyer who now works inside Mecklenburg courtrooms to help people with disabilities; former council member and state Sen. Malcolm Graham; and teacher Antoinette (Toni) Green.

District 3: Mayfield’s decision to run at large opened this seat for the first time in a decade.

Running are attorney Terry Brown, community organizer Caleb Theodros and Victoria Watlington, an engineer who’s worked as vice chair of the Civil Service Board.

District 4: This is open by the retirement of Greg Phipps. Vying to replace him are Richmond Baker, a computer scientist/engineer; Gabe Cartagena, 21-year-old newcomer; business owner Charlene Henderson; Renee Perkins Johnson, CEO of a company that helps trauma victims; Charles Robinson, founder of a nonprofit that helps young people; and insurance agent Sean Thompson.

The winner faces Republican Brandon Pierce.

District 5: Incumbent Matt Newton, an attorney, faces two challengers in the council’s most diverse district. Also running are contractor Vinroy Reid and electrical technician Mark Vincent. With no Republican in the race, the primary winner will automatically get the seat.

District 6: The district has no primary. There Republican incumbent Tariq Bokhari faces Democrat Gina Navarrette, a neuropsychologist, in November.

On Tuesday turnout could be key in several primaries. It also could be affected in southeast Charlotte by the special election in the 9th Congressional District.

Jim Morrill, who grew up near Chicago, covers state and local politics. He’s worked at the Observer since 1981 and taught courses on North Carolina politics at UNC Charlotte and Davidson College. To subscribe to The Observer, go to: www.charlotteobserver.com/jim.
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