Democrats won all four Charlotte City Council at-large seats Tuesday night when James “Smuggie” Mitchell narrowly beat Republican John Powell by 252 votes for the fourth seat.
Mitchell finished with 14.3 percent to Powell’s 14.2 percent. The loss continued a citywide losing streak for Republicans, who have lost the mayoral races and all at-large seats in the last three elections.
Julie Eiselt, running for the first time, finished first with just under 17 percent.
Incumbent Vi Lyles was in second place. Claire Fallon, another incumbent, was third.
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The top four win seats.
Eiselt, a former Bank of America employee, founded a citizens group called Neighbors for a Safer Charlotte in 2008 after a man attempted to abduct her at gunpoint.
“I have been at this for 10 months,” she said. “As a newcomer you have to get your name out there. For me, it’s really been going to as many things as possible and meet as many people as possible.”
She said she thought voters liked both her positions and her biography.
“To me, that’s why I ran,” she said. “I thought I could make a difference.”
Due to her first-place finish, council members could vote Eiselt as mayor pro tem, a mostly ceremonial title. The mayor pro tem conducts meetings when the mayor is absent.
Democrats retain their 9-2 majority, which they have had since 2011.
Democrat Jennifer Roberts defeated Republican Edwin Peacock in the mayor’s race. That means the Democrats have held the mayor’s job since 2009, when Anthony Foxx won his first term.
With Democrats making up about half of the city’s registered voters, the Republicans’ difficulty in winning citywide led to a dearth of candidates. Only three Republicans ran for at-large seats this year, including Powell.
One candidate was David Michael Rice, who has said he would like to become mayor of “Rice Town.”
Jim Cannon, who voted at Quail Hollow Presbyterian Church in south Charlotte, voted for Republican Edwin Peacock for mayor. He said he knew Peacock’s family and was enthusiastically voting for him.
“I’m supporting him as a friend,” he said. “He’s a fine young man.”
But Cannon believed that Peacock and the Republican at-large candidates faced long odds due to the Democratic Party’s advantage in registration.
“Republicans don’t stand a chance,” he said. “That’s just the way the city is.”
Powell campaigned for almost two years. He won the endorsement of the Black Political Caucus over Fallon. To learn the issues, Powell attended almost every council meeting for the last two years.
“For me to miss by that many votes – I’m proud,” Powell said. “I was beaten. It is what it is.”
Under state law, Powell could call for a recount because his margin of defeat was less than 1 percent of the total number of votes cast for him and Mitchell. Powell said Tuesday night he isn’t planning on asking for a recount.
In the four district races, incumbents Ed Driggs, Al Austin, LaWana Mayfield and Greg Phipps won.
Chauncey Hardrick voted for the four Democratic candidates at Sharon South Homes Clubhouse off of Sharon Road West.
He said he was happy Mitchell was running again. Mitchell held a district seat for 14 years before losing the Democratic mayoral primary to Patrick Cannon two years ago.
“It’s good to have him active again,” he said. “His voice has stood out.”
It’s likely the new council will consider expanding the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to include gay, lesbian and transgender residents. Eiselt, Lyles and Fallon said they support expanding the ordinance. Roberts said she supports the measure.
The new council will also vote on whether to extend the contract of City Manager Ron Carlee, whose contract expires in April.
At-large council members David Howard and Michael Barnes, both Democrats, are leaving council. They lost in the Democratic primary for mayor.
Top four finishers will fill at-large seats.
Pablo Carvajal 11.66%
Julie Eiselt 16.98%
Claire Green Fallon 15.81%
Vi Lyles 16.36%
James (Smuggie) Mitchell 14.3%
John K. Powell Jr. 14.2%
David Michael Rice 10.41%
Al Austin 79.56%
Justin Dunn 20.37%
Eric Wayne Netter 23.68%
LaWana Mayfield 76.12%
Michael P. O’Hara 28.37%
Greg Phipps 71.53%
Ed Driggs 68.75%
Chris Turner 31.20%
(168 of 168 precincts reporting)