Austin faces newcomer in District 2

From uptown’s soaring skyscrapers, Charlotte’s City Council District 2 fans out to Paw Creek in the west, NorthLake Mall in the north and the University City area in the east.

As much as any place, it reflects the city’s diversity. Bisected by Beatties Ford Road and Interstate 77, it takes in pockets of poverty and prosperous suburbs.

Two Democrats are running to represent the district. Al Austin and Steven Jones meet in the Sept. 15 primary. The winner faces Republican newcomer Justin Dunn in November.

Nearly two-thirds of the district’s voters are Democrats. Six out of 10 are African-American.

Austin is finishing his first term. He won the seat in 2013 when James “Smuggie” Mitchell stepped down after 14 years to run for mayor.

“I’ve been very proud of the work I’ve done so far, but I realize I have more work to do,” Austin says.

Austin says his priorities for the district are public safety, fighting homelessness with more affordable housing and bringing in more and higher-paying jobs.

“All around my district are different issues,” he says, “and I join in with my residents and my community leaders to resolve them and find resources for them.”

A Charlotte native, Austin works at Johnson C. Smith University and previously was executive director of the McCrorey YMCA in northwest Charlotte. On the council, he’s been a consistent supporter of the streetcar, which would run through his district to JCSU.

In March, he was on the losing side in his vote for a controversial nondiscrimination ordinance.

Jones is making his first run for office. An electrical designer, he lives in Coulwood.

“I’m running because I live in Charlotte, I have a family that’s going to be in Charlotte for quite some time and I feel there are some things, particularly in west Charlotte that could use more focus and attention,” he says.

His top priority: “Getting people the information they need” about such things as city benefits and available grants.

Jones says he can’t support the streetcar because of the cost. “When you have those kinds of budget concerns, it’s hard,” he says.

Jones has not raised any money for his campaign. Austin had raised nearly $22,000 through early August.

Al Austin

Age: 54

Hometown: Charlotte

Family: Single.

Education: BS in criminal justice and sociology, UNC-Chapel Hill, 1982.

Occupation: Major Gifts Officer, Johnson C. Smith University.

Politics: First term.

Steven Jones

Age: 31

Hometown: Charlotte

Family: Wife, Anne, two children.

Education: Attended Central Piedmont Community College.

Occupation: Electrical designer.

Politics: First run for office.