Elections

Democrats Vi Lyles, James Mitchell finish 1-2 in Charlotte City Council at-large primary

Democrats Vi Lyles and James Mitchell were the two top vote-getters in the party's primary for four at-large seats on the Charlotte City Council. Julie Eiselt and Claire Fallon were the two other Democrats to advance to the general election.
Democrats Vi Lyles and James Mitchell were the two top vote-getters in the party's primary for four at-large seats on the Charlotte City Council. Julie Eiselt and Claire Fallon were the two other Democrats to advance to the general election. NewsDesk_East

Democratic voters picked experience in the primary for City Council at-large Tuesday, supporting three candidates who have served on council and one newcomer.

Incumbent Vi Lyles finished first in the 12-person field. Former council member James “Smuggie” Mitchell was second, and incumbent Claire Fallon was in fourth place.

The only newcomer to crack the top four was Julie Eiselt, who founded a group called Neighbors for a Safer Charlotte in 2007. She finished third in her first run for public office.

“My message resounded with people,” Eiselt said. “People care about public safety. They care about economic opportunity. I am humbled. I honestly had no idea, with 12 people running.”

The top four Democrats will advance to the November general election, where they will be favorites. There are more registered Democrats than Republicans, and Democrats have swept all four at-large seats in the last two city elections.

There are three Republicans running, and they did not have a primary Tuesday. The most prominent GOP candidate is John Powell, a real estate broker.

The decisions of Democratic council members Michael Barnes and David Howard to run for mayor left two of the four at-large seats open. That spurred 12 Democrats to run, creating a difficult environment for newcomers to get their message heard.

Eiselt was able to break through in part by raising the most money in the field, with nearly $90,000.

Hotelier Billy Maddalon was in fifth place. Eastside activist Darrell Bonapart was in sixth place.

If Lyles is again the top vote-getter in November, she would likely be named by the council as the mayor pro tem.

“People saw that I worked and dealt with the tough issues,” said Lyles, a former Charlotte assistant city manager. “They have confidence I will continue to do that.”

Mitchell served on City Council for 14 years, but he lost the Democratic mayoral primary to Patrick Cannon in 2013.

If the four Democrats win in the general election, it’s likely the new City Council would vote for a second time on expanding its nondiscrimination ordinance to include gay, lesbian and transgender residents. Of the four Democrats who won Tuesday, three support expanding the ordinance, including adding a provision that would allow transgender residents to use the bathroom of their choice.

Fallon did not support the expanded ordinance in March, in one of the most controversial issues the council has debated in years. She did vote for the compromise ordinance that didn’t include the bathroom flexibility.

But if Lyles, Mitchell and Eiselt win again in November, LGBT supporters would have a council majority. That could set up a new vote on the issue in early 2016.

Lyles, Mitchell and Eiselt were endorsed by a coalition of groups supporting LGBT rights, including MeckPAC.

Michael Moore, who voted at the Greek Orthodox Church in Dilworth, said he voted for Lyles because she is a progressive.

“People that I know respect her and like her,” he said. “She was adamant about things such as the problem with the re-segregation of our schools.”

Reba Foster, who voted at Barringer Elementary in west Charlotte, was a strong supporter of David Howard for mayor, who had been endorsed by the Black Political Caucus. When it came time to voting for four at-large candidates, she voted for the four the caucus endorsed: Lyles, Mitchell, Maddalon and Bonapart.

“I trust David, and think I should trust them,” Foster said.

Fallon is trying to serve her third term on council. She raised about $14,000 for this election.

“I don’t believe in raising a lot of money,” she said. “But I still do OK.”

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

Results

Laurence Bibbs 2.06%

Darrell Bonapart 8.96%

Bruce Clark 3.78%

Julie Eiselt 12.71%

Claire Green Fallon 11.75%

Sean Gautam 2.31%

Shawn Greeson 3.12%

Mo Idlibby 6.61%

Vi Lyles 18.74%

Billy Maddalon 9.31%

James “Smuggie” Mitchell 17.29%

Aaron Sanders 3.35%

(All precincts reporting)

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